British Airways aircraft

WELCOMING SIGHT: Passengers disembark from a British Airways aircraft at the Arthur NR International Airport yesterday on the first international flight to arrive on the island since March 2020, when T&T’s borders were closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. —Photo: Elizabeth Williams 

AFTER almost two years of no direct international flights to Tobago due to Covid-19 restrictions by the Government, British Airways touched down at Arthur NR Robinson International Airport yesterday afternoon.

Chief Secretary of the Tobago House of Assembly, Farley Augustine, who was on hand at the airport to welcome back the airline, told reporters that its return is a positive start for Tobago as just under 90 passengers disembarked the aircraft.

“I’m excited that British Airways has returned and we were able to maintain our partnerships. We are hopeful that the number of passengers that disembarked yesterday is a good sign for things to come, as some islands started off with fewer passengers when flights resumed and are doing pretty well now,” Augustine said.

The Chief Secretary said what needs to happen now is the island needs to build out its Covid response in a firm way and also reopen the economy and get business back up and running.

Secretary of Tourism and Transportation, Tashia Grace Burris, who was also present, said the passenger numbers from the airline were a good sign and she is hopeful that Tobago can return to the 100,00 passengers it once had in the early 2000s.

“Some believe that we may not reach to these numbers, but when I gave the Express Business those figures last week, a timeline was not given. This administration is known for dreaming big and these numbers will return in the foreseeable future,” Burris said.

She indicated that it was important to engage the stakeholders to ensure that their businesses can get back up and running as well as encourage greater collaboration with the division and the tourism stakeholders.

“The solution lies with us and being innovative at this time. The way we did things before is not the way we can continue to operate. Stands, regulations and return on investment are the three key components we intend to follow through with.”

Burris indicated that the tourism industry must be once again at the forefront.

She added that Virgin Atlantic is expected to resume flights to the island at the end of the month.

Commenting on the airline’s return to Tobago was the island’s Hotel and Tourism Association vice-president Carol-Ann Birchwood-James, who said this was welcoming news and the hotels which are open for business stand ready to welcome them.

Birchwood-James said it was high time the island reopened for international flights as the tourism industry has been in dire straits for almost two years, as a result of the closure of borders to international flights in Tobago.

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