Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association president Alpha Lord says his association expects a 60 per cent occupancy rate overall for the upcoming October Carnival celebrations.
During an interview over the weekend, Lord said this represented an alarming 40 per cent decline in some areas when compared to the island’s occupancy rate in 2023, where the association recorded a up to 100 per cent rate for the inaugural Carnival.
In 2022, some hotels, villas and guesthouses recorded 76 per cent occupancy while most were completely booked, he said.
However, when it comes to the current status of hotel occupancy for this year’s Tobago Carnival, Lord said smaller properties are expected to see a drop in occupancy first, while larger properties are currently at the 20-25 per cent range.
This year, Tobago will host its Carnival from October 27-29.
“So, the smaller properties are going to fall out first because obviously, they have less occupancy. I know of a couple properties that are saying to me they’re sold out already. So the big properties, I think they’re probably in the 20-25 per cent range right now. As an island, I am hopeful that as a destination, we will get to the end and say we’ve done 55-60 per cent occupancy average across the floor.”
Issues on the seabridge, as well as the lack of advertisement and availability of Caribbean Airlines flights and ferry sailings are major factors behind this prediction, Lord noted.
He said, “We have people who are saying we don’t have enough information or we don’t have enough confidence. Whether it be the flight situation is going to be sufficient and capable. The sealift and airlift has always been a concern. But there’s also the question of how much market and how much is going into promoting the Carnival in the Trinidad space. How much confidence the Trinidad mas players who travel the world have to play mas in the Tobago. So all of those things are going to affect my members.”
He said the recent pulling of the Cabo Star from the seabridge for repairs following a fire has not directly affected the hotel occupancy, but the ability to produce and supply products has been limited.
“It doesn’t affect the occupancy as much as affect the ability to transport produce and products. And this current time, none of the hotels are saying we have a situation or we have a crisis. Obviously, our suppliers, what I believe is in the food, beverage or even hardware suppliers may have limited capacity on that.
“But we are not seeing a crisis that affects us directly at the moment. Without a doubt, it still is a matter of concern for the wider Tobago population and I think if it goes on indefinitely, it is going to become a crisis. But for now, it’s been managed to the commendation of the Port Authority and all the persons involved. The new vessel (temporary barge) operations—whilst it’s going to replace the cargo—I think it’s going to help in this situation.”
He said he hopes that the promotion of Tobago’s Carnival in Trinidad will increase confidence in the festival and encourage more people to attend.