Diane Hadad

(flashback)aye aye, captain!: Diane Hadad, chair of the Tobago Division of the T&T Chamber of Commerce, is all smiles during the maiden voyage of the A.P.T. James from Trinidad yesterday. —Photo: JERMAINE CRUICKSHANK

SIX to ten days of domestic travel to Tobago for the Easter vacation cannot fix the economic challenges that are being experienced for the past 13 years.

That’s the view of Diane Hadad, president of the Tobago Division of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce, who said that while the boost of arrivals to the island was welcomed for the Easter weekend, it could not fix the economic fallout that has plagued Tobago for years.

“The island continues to suffer due to the loss of jobs, the loss of airlift internationally and the loss of spend in foreign currency. So six to ten days is a drop in the bucket to what is being experienced for years.”

With the loss of jobs, Hadad said there has been an increase in robberies on the island as persons have become desperate and have turned to such crimes.

Hadad was speaking to the Express during a cellphone interview over the weekend.

10,000 visitors

She noted that improving the air and sea transport between Trinidad and Tobago was critically important as the island enjoyed 10,000 local visitors for the long weekend.

Tobago, which is heavily dependent on tourism, has been seeing an uptick in domestic travel since the country’s borders were shuttered on March 23, 2020.

Hadad, who was an advocate for a functional air and seabridge, said with the closed borders it was of paramount importance to have effective inter-island transport as the Tobago economy now is highly dependent on domestic travel.

“Some years ago Trinidadians were frustrated with the service of the air and seabridge, along with several delays so that deterred some visiting the island and opting to spend long weekends in the Caribbean and overseas. But with more ferries on the water and consistent flights to Tobago it has helped tremendously.”

Hadad does not believe the sister isle can hold out for much longer in this Covid-19 atmosphere.

She said: “Another lockdown would be very detrimental for the economy of the country and that is why the Covid cases need to come back at a manageable number daily.”

The Tobago Division Chamber of Industry and Commerce president said she is pleased that the rollout of the vaccines would begin on the island from today and hopes some kind of normalcy can take place in order to help the limping economy.

More visitors

General manager of the Magdalena Grand Beach and Golf Resort in Tobago, Vinod Bajaj, said this Easter vacation was bumper for the resort, for which he was grateful as last year Easter the country’s borders were closed as the Government tried to curb the spread of the virus.

“The hotel has been having a steady flow of guests since March and beyond also looks promising. We are ensuring that all Covid protocols are being observed and the intake of guests under the health guidelines are being adhered to. With the pandemic we had to be innovative to attract domestic travel, so we have a lot of promotions taking place to entice guests.”

Bajaj said he was able to keep all his staff despite the challenges brought on by Covid-19 and they are working round the clock to ensure the guests are served up to standard.

He also noted that upgrades have been undertaken with the $50 million in grants that was given for hoteliers for upgrading room facilities in 2020 during the pandemic.

“Magdalena Grand has received the first tranche of the grant and upgrades have been done and when the second tranche is received further upgrades will be conducted,” he added.

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