FILE PHOTO - A flock of Scarlet Ibis return to the Caroni Swamp to roost for the evening. (Image: RISHI RAGOONATH)

The Minister of Tourism needs to meet with tour operators at the Caroni Bird Sanctuary, to discuss a revision of the current operating hours of 5 am to 2 pm, says Member of Parliament Dinesh Rambally.

According to MP Rambally, “The Government’s decision to only allow tours at the Caroni Bird Sanctuary between the hours of 5 am and 2 pm is yet another display of inconsistent policymaking.”

“Everyone in Trinidad and Tobago knows that the main reason why people visit the Caroni Bird Sanctuary is to see the many Scarlet Ibises fly in at the dusk hour. The burgeoning of red against the trees all bathed in the light of the setting sun, is like the climactic moment in these tours, which are heavily subscribed by locals. Nobody wants to go on these tours in the debilitating heat of the mid-day sun. Operators are therefore bound to lose business,” the Chaguanas West MP says. 

MP Rambally added: “The imposition of this time restriction shows how disconnected this government is with the tour operators, who need to be out there on evenings. These tour operators do not facilitate the consumption of alcohol, or party-like atmospheres. In fact, they are compliant with COVID-19 regulations. Their business is fuelled largely by repeat customers who tend to bring others along for the second or third trip. How are repeats expected to happen when no one is coming in the first place or are discouraged after an anticlimactic mid-day visit?”

The MP is urging Minister of Tourism, Randall Mitchell, to have consultations with the tour operators as soon as possible.

“The Caroni Bird Sanctuary, which is a huge tourist attraction and a potential earner for much-needed forex, is being left completely neglected by this government,” he said. 

“The boatmen at the Caroni Bird Sanctuary have proven to be more creative and innovative than the government. For two years they have managed to stay afloat without anyone lifting a finger to help them.  They have created breakfast tours to try to get some visitors early in the morning and I commend them for their creativity in this regard. But they desperately need to be able to take out evening tours again,” MP Rambally said.