Patrons board the Cool Runnings glass bottom boat at Store Bay, Tobago on  Tuesday, to tour the Buccoo Reef, in March.

Heads of Tobago’s hospitality industry say they support the rollback restrictions implemented by the Ministry of Health (MOH) to address the recent increase in COVID-19 cases, noting it’s “unfortunate” everyone had not followed COVID protocols, leading to increased cases.

Chris James, Kaye Trotman, and Nicholas Hardwicke said the new restrictions may not have further weakened Tobago’s economy if the usual financial cushion from the Easter vacation had materialised.

They said occupancy rates fell below the expected over 90 per cent, and restrictions on restaurants’ sale of alcohol and seating capacity, prevented the food and beverage sector from accessing the increased visitors’ arrivals benefits.

At the MoH media briefing yesterday, Health Minister Terrance Deyalsingh announced beaches would close again except for turtle conservationists, restaurants revert to curbside pickup, and public gatherings reduced from 10 to five, for the next three weeks.

Reacting to the the announcement, James, who is president of Tobago’s Bed and Breakfast, Self-Catering Association Unique Accommodation Trotman and president of the Hotel and Tourism Association, said the Government must save citizens’ lives regardless of the economic consequences.

James said the occupancy rate for the four-day Easter weekend was 79.1 per cent.

“It was much below the 15 per cent we normally get for Easter. Going forward, the figures show that we are looking at 18 per cent for the remainder of April. We do not have figures for further ahead than that,” James told Guardian Media.

Trotman said the bed and breakfast sector reported less than 60 per cent occupancy rate for Easter–some members had no guests while others were fully booked.

Restaurateur Hardwicke said he did well for the Easter season

“Under the limits of not being able to sell alcohol and with only 50 per cent seating capacity at the restaurant,” he said

Hardwicke, who owns Seahorse Inn Restaurant and Bar, said having to revert to curbside pickup is “an exercise in a slow death.”

He says he hoped the Government is using scientific data to reintroduce the rollback of the measures.

All the hospitality veterans say they look forward to this country’s vaccination rollout plan and residents doing their part to allow the economy to reopen.

According to Tobago’s Health Division, as of yesterday, there are 23 active COVID cases on the island– two new cases in the last 24 hours. Since last year when testing began in Tobago, there have been 185 positive cases and two persons have died.