Many sectors throughout the country are anxiously awaiting the next Ministry of Health press conference on Saturday, where Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley is expected to announce what changes, if any, will be made to the country’s COVID-19 safety restrictions. Most sectors are hoping for an ease of restrictions to allow for more business activity.
One Tobago hotelier says it’s time to gradually re-open our borders by increasing inter-island travel and progressing to regional flights as it’s time to get on with rebuilding the economy.
The call comes from Tropkist Hotel operations manager Safiya Hosein, who said yesterday that the pandemic’s effects had been devastating. Noting that for the first time in the hotel’s 44 years there were no guests, she said it was time to get the country actively moving towards recovery by re-opening the borders and allowing persons to get acclimatised to the “new normal.”
“Individuals, businesses, we all need to be responsible enough to be able to follow safety procedures so that we could actually re-open the country again, but it is a responsibility that everyone has to be able to adapt,” Hosein said.
She suggested that the number of local flights be increased in the first instance before progressing to regional travel and completely reopening the borders.
Hosein said the pandemic had “reset” the sector and initiatives like the Government’s room upgrade grant will add value to the destination. But she said she would like to see other initiatives implemented to make the destination more competitive.
“Things like direct flights to the destination would definitely make the destination more attractive. And if Tobago becomes a duty-free island, then the cost of goods would become more attractive to visitors.”
Tropikist Hotel shot into the headlines in August after a guest from Trinidad tested positive for COVID-19. According to reports, the individual was tested in Trinidad during the community surveillance exercise and went to Tobago before receiving her results. As such, all the other guests and staff were placed on 14 days mandatory quarantine at the hotel.
Hosein said she was grateful none of the persons quarantined at the hotel had tested positive for the virus but said “it was a learning experience.” She said the hotel had since implemented all safety guidelines, trained staff and was now certified.
The hotel yesterday donated five laptops to students from the Hope Anglican and Mt St George Methodist Primary schools. She said “management had to go beyond the call to support core staff and those negatively affected” on the island.
“It’s a whole new challenge for everyone, especially our children, in this new chapter of virtual learning, so in this regard, we are happy to have presented five laptops to students in two schools from Tobago.”
Efforts to contact THA Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis, who is also Secretary of Tourism, Culture and Transportation, for comment on Hosein’s comment were unsuccessful as he did not answer calls.