Tobago beaches open but Store Bay vendors struggling

Winnifred Stoute, who sells clothing at Store Bay Beach Facility, complained about slow sales on Tuesday, despite the reopening of beaches. - Photo by David Reid
Winnifred Stoute, who sells clothing at Store Bay Beach Facility, complained about slow sales on Tuesday, despite the reopening of beaches. - Photo by David Reid

Vendors at the Store Bay Beach Facility have reported a slowing down of business since the initial rush when beaches reopened on December 20.

Vendors said even though opening hours have been extended by two hours, from 5am-2pm. sales are still slow.

On Tuesday, Newsday visited the popular beach in Crown Point but there were no large crowds, just a few families frolicking in the water, and some children playing in the sand.

Winnifred Stoute, who owns a small clothing and souvenir store there, said she preferred the initial opening hours for beaches.

“When it was 5am-midday, I was making more money than now. Everybody was rushing to come to the beach. But now it’s not feasible. At five in the morning to 12, it worked much better, I really don’t know why.”

She said sales are usually better on Mondays and Fridays.

“When they’re going back to England, basically the Monday and Friday flights, when they’re leaving, we pick up a little change, because they’re looking for little souvenirs and sweets to take home, but nothing really to talk about.”

Her business is struggling to make any profit.

“We have invested a lot but we’re really not seeing the returns.”

Souvenir store owner Timothy Bostock said the reopening of the Buccoo marine park has had a negative effect on Store Bay businesses.

Ashley McMillan, right, owner of Man On The Rock beach bar, begins renovation work as he eyes a reopening in the first week in February. Photo by David Reid

“What we have realised is that with the opening of the marine park, the tour operators are taking the visitors from here and dropping them off at the jetty at Pigeon Point. That cannot be fair. That is not how it's supposed to be – they left from here and therefore they should be brought back here.

"All of that is contributing to the problem that we’re having here.”

Refurbishment work was observed in full swing at the nearby Man on the Rock beach bar, run by Ashley McMillan, who is eyeing a February reopening. McMillan told Newsday he chose to do renovations now as he could only do it when the money became available.

Managing director and owner of Tobago Frontier Divers Alvin Douglas said the diving industry is suffering.

“Anything that interferes with the flights between the islands, travel and access to the water, the niche is going to suffer first, so we are constantly suffering.”

He added: “I open up because I have to live, I have to do something.

"Then you have training courses – people who doing courses in environmental studies and all these things. We have the Institute of Marine Affairs, you have fisheries that rely on divers for services, so we will open up for that.

Trinidadian Kevin Cummings, left, holds one of his daughters, Azaria, while his aunt Michelle Vidale-Brown of Ohio, holds her twin sister Zhuri while bathing at Store Bay on Tuesday. Photo by David Reid

"But as for tourist services, that’s different.”

He said each weekend he is hoping the Prime Minister reopens beaches fully.

"So imagine those looking at Tobago that want to come – they’re not going to come here if the beaches aren’t open.

"You’re in the US and you want to come to the Caribbean: why would you come to Tobago, where the beaches remain closed? There is Grenada, and Grenada is open.”

He said tourism is seasonal and therefore more marketing must be done of niche markets.

“Once you market the island specifically for the niche, people would come. If Tobago is marketed as a premier place for birdwatching, birdwatchers from Japan would come. Even if they have to sleep in the rain, they will come, armed with their cameras to watch birds.

"But you have to specifically target that market. Tobago has not been doing that, they have not been targeting the niches and them that they advertise."

US resident Ciel Vidale, right, and Trinidadian Tennille Cummings return to the beach after having lunch at the Store Bay Beach Facility on Tuesday. Photo by David Reid

On the return of British Airways (BA) to Tobago on January 10, electoral representative for Crown Point/Bon Accord Joel Sampson hailed the first direct international flight since March 2020 as a “major win" for the island, but especially for entrepreneurs. He said the return of the UK airlines augurs well for local businesses.


"Tobago beaches open but Store Bay vendors struggling"

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