Secretary for Health, Wellness and Family Development Tracy Davidson-Celestine says, “Tobago is ready and open for business,” but believes the back and forth over the island’s ability to safely receive international guests is all because of “miscommunication.”
Her response comes after members of the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association are upset that the decision—to route all international flights through Trinidad—was taken without consulting them.
Yesterday, members of the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association (THTA) called for greater consultation on the way forward in the COVID-19 recovery process.
Through a media release, the THTA said it “noted with great surprise” statements made by both Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Stuart Young and THA Secretary for Health Wellness and Family Development Tracy Davidson Celestine, following a tour of the Piarco International Airport last week.
Both were among a contingent of government officials who visited the facility ahead of the scheduled reopening of this country’s borders on July 17.
Following the tour, Minister Young said Tobago would remain closed to direct international flights as “Tobago has asked for a little bit more time to see how this works out and we will work with Tobago.” This along with the response from the Health Secretary who said, “That’s a request made by the hotel sector, not Tobago,” are of concern to members of the association.
According to the association, the “THTA Board of Directors would like to make it abundantly clear that at no time have we made any such request ‘for more time to open’” and the association has repeatedly stated in the media that the industry has followed all CARPHA training protocols and WTTC Safe Travel (World Travel & Tourism Council) stamp requirements in preparation for both domestic and international business.”
THTA Vice President Carol-Ann Birchwood James said the association has repeatedly asked to meet with members of the Tobago House of Assembly and the government. She said the international flights being routed through Trinidad with one local flight daily operating at 25 per cent capacity is a major challenge for the island.
“We repeatedly made appeals to the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) for urgent consultations in respect to recommendations for the survival and post-pandemic recovery of the Tobago tourism sector and those calls have gone unanswered. We are again calling for consultation with the THA and also the government to plan the way forward for the sector.”
Guardian Media reached out to Davidson-Celestine on the issue. She said Tobago is ready and will be open for business whenever the issues surrounding the spread of the virus allows for it.
“As I understand it, all of our borders will be open. However, as highlighted in the Prime Minister’s press conference last Saturday, all international flights will be cleared in Trinidad, even those with arrivals bound for Tobago.”
She said the process “allows for tighter controls, and a reduction of the risks associated with the COVID-19 and increasing Tobago’s protection.”
The Health Secretary said there are strict laws and policy guidelines that limit the movement of people within Trinidad and Tobago at the moment and she is also aware that some accommodation properties may not be fully ready, but said, “I’m sure they will be making every effort to welcome guests.”
Davidson-Celestine added, “It is unfortunate that there seems to be some cross communications with regards to Tobago’s readiness, however the health system and by extension, Tobago is ready and open for business.”