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Fewer foreign tourists in Tobago
If one million tourists really visited Tobago in 2013, the financial statements of hoteliers would have been looking better, Carolyn Birchwood-James, vice president of the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association (THTA) told the T&T Guardian. She was responding to claims by Secretary of Tourism and Transportation in the Tobago House of Assembly (THA), Tracy Davidson-Celestine, that for the first time in Tobago’s history there were one million visitors to the island last year “I am at a loss as to how they calculated that figure. In fact the private stakeholders are at a loss as to how that figure was arrived at,” Birchwood-James said. “While they are quoting those figures, a lot of our hoteliers and people in the tourism industry are still trying to get into the Tobago Tourism Development Fund and to get that going. It has been a difficult time. “If we have had all those arrivals then our financial statements should look more buoyant than they look now.”
Last week, in her contribution to the THA budget debate, Davidson-Celestine said the 1,001,752 tourists who visited Tobago last year surpassed the numbers recorded in many other Caribbean islands, including Saint Lucia, which had 952,390 visitors for the same period. Birchwood James said in terms of foreign visitor arrivals, there was actually a decrease. “There was something like 25,000 foreign arrivals in 2013 and that is a drop from 86,000 in 2006. This is a big drop and this is why the Tobago hoteliers are in big problems,” she said, adding that the one million visitors is a broad calculation. “I guess they are counting visitor arrivals on ferries, and visitor arrivals on the airbridge. They have not broken down the figures as to who came for the day to do business and that sort of thing. Whether it is a million visitors or not, the fact remains our tourism stakeholders are still very financially challenged,” Birchwood-James said. She said 2014 has been upbeat so far.
“We have had an increase in foreign visitors and that is mainly due to our Scandinavian flights. We do have an increase in the number of Trinidadians coming to Tobago. Remember, with the exception of Easter as well as July and August, most visitors from Trinidad come for the weekend. You really cannot pay the bank with visitors coming two days a week,” she said. She said the private and public sectors must work together to find solutions. “We must develop packages where people from Trinidad can spend four and five days on the island. We have to encourage more airlift. For example there has been a 45 per cent increase in visitor arrivals from Canada to Trinidad but we do not have direct flights to Tobago. We should have a direct flight from Canada to Tobago,” she said.