Tobago like other Caribbean islands have been economically impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, however stakeholder consultation and collaboration is “key to the rebound of the tourism sector.”
That’s according to newly appointed Tobago House of Assembly Tourism Secretary Tashia Burris, who told Caribbean Journal recently that she has been in office approximately two months and has spent the greater part of that time in direct stakeholder engagement to better assess the environment in which the office operates.
“Additionally, as the formal stakeholder engagement series winds down, a larger cross-industry meeting will be held where the data I have collated from the individual engagements will be presented and then we will agree tentatively on key points that will serve as the pillars upon which the rejuvenation plan will stand,” she said. “I also look forward to regular open dialogue with industry stakeholders to ensure that plans and policies are relevant and effective.”
The 36-year-old tourism secretary, said that during her meetings with the Tobago Hotel & Tourism Association (THATA) and the Tobago Tourism Agency Limited (TTAL) in January, covered areas of focus for the way forward, including the reestablishment of the tourism standing committee, enhanced domestic marketing and ongoing conversations towards standards & regulations and increased airlift.
With regards to upgrades on hotel room stock on the island, she said this was critical to any product throughout the tourism life cycle, as enhanced and increased quality room stock offerings will translate into growth and expansion of the industry.
“This area of product development is one that we recognize as crucial and as such, through the Tobago Tourism Agency, we continue to facilitate for accommodation providers on the island the Tourism Accommodation Upgrade Program which is a tourism incentive project that provides a partial reimbursement to eligible tourism accommodation properties for upgrade work. Of course, we are also focused on doing the necessary work and collaborations to attract foreign direct investment in this regard as well,” the tourism secretary said.
Burris said she had no updates on the $74 million Marriott-branded hotel in Rocky Point, which is expected to be constructed by 2025.
“When that announcement was made by the last administration, there were no submissions from the developers for environmental clearance and other necessary approvals and to date, as far as I am aware, those requests for approvals are still outstanding,” she said.
The pandemic has shown the world that the way of doing business and attracting investment must be done differently and it’s against this background, that Ms. Burris identified that both the Division and the Tobago Tourism Agency Limited must now focus more intentionally on the island’s domestic market (Trinidad).
“Indeed, our largest source market at this time for leisure is our neighboring sister isle and this must be taken into account during this pandemic as we design new marketing efforts and strategically chart the rebound of the sector,” she said.
International travel only reopened last month after almost two years.
That included the return of British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, which both resumed flights twice weekly to the island.
“The resumption of the international flights has seen us experiencing stable international arrival numbers on each flight since their return to Tobago,” she said.