THA seeks bailout for tourism operators

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Traditional carnival characters greet visitors upon arrival at ANR Robinson International Airport in Crown Point, Tobago. – File photo/David Reid

Chief Secretary Farley Augustine said the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) is trying to implement a bailout for those in the tourism sector still reeling from the effects of the covid19 pandemic.

He was speaking on Saturday at the official relaunch of the Kariwak Village Development Co, Crown Point, Tobago.

Kariwak Village, which was established in 1982, is changing its image to position itself as the epicenter of wellness in the region.

Augustine noted that Kariwak, like other similar establishments in the tourism sector, has suffered financially over the past two years from the pandemic.

He congratulated the hotel’s president, Allan Clovis, and the management team for their decision to invest in post-covid19 wellness.

“We really want places like Kariwak to survive and succeed so much that I’ve been pestering the finance technocrats to find more and more money so we can create a bailout for those in the sector. tourism.”

Augustine added: “We have given grants and the grants are good. What I imagine the corporate sector needs now is a liquidity line with a moratorium of at least 30 months before you start paying so you can catch up and have some sort of liquidity with which to work.

He observed that although Tobago’s economy has almost fully reopened – due to the lifting of covid19 restrictions nearly a month ago – international flights to the island are still virtually empty.

“An international flight arrived on Saturday evening (last week). But the truth is that most of these flights arrive quite empty. So that means we haven’t done anything right in all these years of spending millions of dollars to keep these flights going. So they can’t afford to be empty.

Augustine said the situation presented the island with an opportunity to capitalize on domestic tourism.

“Just Easter has shown us that we can overwhelm the place with just Trinis who just want a close, affordable and welcoming holiday.

“And so part of our discussion needs to be to make sure that we consider every Trini as a tourist and not just those who come from the UK or one of our international source markets. We need to consider every Trini as a tourist Yes they come with US dollars but for now we will take all the TT dollars we can get.

He said stepping into the future sometimes requires thinking back to the things that worked and understanding why they were lost.

“We have to dig up from those things of the past the ones that have succeeded and revive some of those things. I hope Kariwak will present this reactivation that we need on the island.

Augustine also took advantage of the forum to launch a new call for the improvement of the quality of service in Tobago.

“Ultimately, if we are discussing the success of the tourism sector, we must be talking about service in the Tobago space.

“Oh damn. This is a problem. Oh my God, please Tobagonians, we need to find a way to understand that service is not servitude and giving someone a drink of water with a smile doesn’t take anything away from you or your character. We need to start doing it again.

He added: “There’s nothing wrong with being polite and kind…. Now that I’m chief secretary, I get good service wherever I go because people just recognize your face and want to be helpful. But ordinary citizens complain about the service they receive from other Tobagonians.

Augustine said Tobagonians are generally not rude.

“When you go to the villages and see how we live, we are by nature very polite. You can hear hoarse laughter through the neighbor’s fence. We share our food with each other.

He said villagers often gather to cook at wakes, weddings and funerals.

“Now we have to take that culture and translate it into tourism and service, in general, what we know culturally. Now you have to take that and move it to where people are served, whether it’s a restaurant, a hotel, a clothing store or a little shop on the street. Even if it’s street food you’re selling, service is important and how you treat people is important.

At a post-Executive Council press conference on August 23, 2021, former Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis announced that the assembly was embarking on a three-year initiative to change the culture of service in Tobago.

The first phase of the initiative, which was led by Singapore-based company Uplifting Service, targeted senior managers and those in leadership positions within the THA and other sectors.

On this occasion, Dennis said: “The intention is to train the whole island, the agents of the tourism sector and even the people of the public sector, the taxi operators, all those who are involved in any element of service will be trained in customer service”.

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