TOBAGO House of Assembly (THA) chief secretary Farley Augustine says he was happy with the turnout at the Tobago carnival and the opportunities for enterprise it gave to Tobagonians.
He was addressing a THA post-budget briefing on Thursday after an earlier meeting with his THA colleagues.
“From an economic perspective, the reason for having a stand-alone carnival is so we can draw people to the island. We have to keep doing things to increase our transient population and bring people to the island because when they come, transportation services are used, accommodation, meals, they are in the supermarkets.”
He joked that last weekend in Tobago, people who he did not know were asking him for selfies.
“To be honest, I have not seen a time in Tobago for such a long while that we have had such a large influx at one time on the island.”
Augustine commended the stakeholders.
“That (carnival) certainly has done more than $12 million input for our economic space, in terms of (visitor) spend on the space.”
He said when the Government had spent $100 million on a Taste of Carnival in Trinidad, it had not sought to make money on that investment.
“It is an investment so that the economic space makes more than that.
“I am confident that our (Tobago) economic space has made more than that ($12 million) over the preceding week.”
Augustine welcomed the news that Tobago’s hospitality industry had made a 500 per cent profit increase over the Tobago carnival period.
“All the accommodation they reached out to are reporting a 100 per cent occupancy.
“In fact, they are saying this might be one of our peaks in the longest while in terms of occupancy rates for the island.
“Of course, when we sit, and we quantify how much was made by supermarkets, those who rented out cars, those who cook food and sell...”
He said, on a drive through Scarborough on Saturday, he saw the whole Tobago carnival band parade route lined with tents of Tobagonians vending goods.
“So you got a chance to benefit and earn. That was the intent behind it.”
Augustine promised to work to increase airlift into Tobago to carry even more people.
“We already saw the increase with cruise ships, moving to 70-plus cruise liners or calls this season. Up from 40? We are moving in the right direction and want to see a lot more of that.”
He said he wanted more regional and international airlift.
“I have no interest really in bemoaning Caribbean Airlines and what it does or doesn’t do. We have an island to run, and we need to get the people to the island because if we believe in all our hearts that this is the greatest little island on the planet, then we must want to share it and make money while sharing it as an island.”
Augustine said Tobago had bounced back well after the pandemic. He spoke of an MOU for the airlift of tourists from Scandinavia and said earlier this week, he had begun arranging a meeting with Tobago’s business sector.
He wants to build more links with the TT diaspora.
“One of the things that came out of the last meeting we had with those in New York and the Tri-State area is that they wanted to have access to some virtual help desk here (so) that before they even land in Tobago, they could know (in) which direction to turn for whatever help they need, (and) they could be apprised of all the changes in the space in terms of regulation.”
He said the THA wanted to engage the diaspora plus investors.
Saying THA members had discussed eco-tourism and agriculture, he said he expected this year to see the take-off of the Tobago Bay Leaf and Spice Project after years of allocations made in the annual national budget but with nothing happening.
Augustine said the THA under him each year puts aside $100-$120 million to pay Tobago’s developmental workers in Cepep and the URP. However, responding to a reporter’s query about habitual late payments to these workers, he promised to try to improve that situation.