Condor Airlines landed in Tobago in September 2019.

Loyse Vincent

Tobago Tourism Agency Limited CEO Louis Lewis says while destination Tobago may be behind in terms of Caribbean destinations that have already begun accepting international guests, the approach remains one driven by sustainability and safety for residents and visitors.

According to Lewis, stakeholders are trained, vaccination is ongoing and service providers are showing interest in destination Tobago. However, there are no specifics in terms of finances disbursed thus far from the Government’s $50 million Tourism Upgrade Grant.

Speaking exclusively with Guardian Media yesterday, Lewis said TTAL has always kept close connectivity with the airlines that serviced the route prior to the pandemic, several of whom still show interest in coming to Tobago.

“We have some clear indications of interest with Condor. They have actually scheduled service to Tobago to commence in November, they thought it was best to schedule a winter service. We are in conversation with Virgin, they have also expressed interest in commencing in October and we have similar interest with British Airways for October for flights connecting in Antigua.”

Asked if he felt the second wave of the virus would affect demand for domestic travel going forward, Lewis said TTAL is currently focused on preparing stakeholders for the return of visitors. However, he said personal responsibility also plays a major role going forward.

“We have developed a series of protocols and we are currently collaborating with CARPHA and the WTTC to train stakeholders, especially those who are going to be in direct contact with visitors from the domestic and the international market.”

He said the world has changed and whether it’s tourism or banking, people now have to embrace the new normal where personal responsibility has to be a priority, as institutions cannot be blamed for the spread of the virus.

Although health officials have reported that only 388 people in the tourism sector have been vaccinated, Lewis said the process is “ongoing and there are signs of progress.” TTAL continues to keep international stakeholders abreast of the vaccination programme locally, but Lewis said vaccination hesitancy is a global concern.

“The reality is that we have to continue to try to convince and encourage people to get vaccinated. When we follow the science, there is no cure for COVID-19, the vaccine is our best chance for survival.”

With regard to the destination being late off the starter block, as other destinations are actively receiving guests, Lewis said TTAL had taken the position to continue to focus on ensuring safety and ensuring the sector is sustainable.

Lewis also gave an update on the Government’s $50 million upgrade grant programme, saying applications have been closed off.

“We received 124 applicants who are at various stages of their projects. The fact that the construction sector was closed for a while had some influence on the work done.”