No rating system for Tobago hotels
- Island’s famous brands are KFC and Subway
Saturday, June 4, 2016
No systems in place to rate hotels in Tobago, conditions at the ANR Airport so poor that airline Virgin Atlantic was forced to pull its operations from the island, poor sea port facilities, poor customer service throughout the island and millions of shortfalls regarding the Tobago Jazz Experience were among problems revealed before parliament’s Joint Select Committee (JSC) meeting yesterday.
The committee also heard that the only “recognisable brands” in Tobago were Kentucky Fried Chicken, Wendy’s and Subway.
Administrator Cheryl-Ann Solomon said there were no international standards to rate hotels in Tobago.
Chairman Ian Roach, who appeared stunned, said, “This is kind of odd as Tobago is about tourism and hotels are one of the main attractions.”
Pressed why there was no such system, Director of Tourism, Frederica Brooks-Adams, said that information had to be sought.
Roach, who seemed unimpressed, said, “To say at this point in time that you don’t know is not good enough. It has me lost for words.”
Committee member Daniel Solomon, who echoed Roach’s statements, described the situation as frightening and questioned how was Tobago expected to promote tourism if there was no rating policy in place.
It was also revealed that 2015 room occupancy was between 35 and 40 per cent at a rate of TT$1,086 for hotels and $344 for guest houses. No regional comparative figures, however, could be provided.
But despite such challenges, Brooks-Adams said, some progress was being made as recently two of the island’s beaches and “blue food” were identified by CNN as popular tourist attractions. Another challenge was that a marina was urgently needed since there was no regularisation of yachties who visited Tobago. She added that training in tourism was also taking place to improve service delivery.
Regarding conditions at the airport, transport coordinator Samuel Henry said the THA was “acutely aware” of such conditions and ongoing talks to improve the facility were taking place. “Many airlines that fly into the airport, especially Virgin, they have been complaining bitterly about the conditions. That was one of the reasons why they pulled out,” Henry added.
Members of the THA were chastised for the late submission of reports as Roach deemed this as “really unacceptable.” The THA was also taken to task regarding the submission of financial statements to the Auditor General’s Office.
Chief Administrator in the office of the Chief Secretary, Raye Sandy, said the 2013 report was already submitted while the 2012 and 2014 were awaiting signatures. The 2015 statements were expected to be sent within the following weeks.
Regarding ways to improve the Jazz Experience, Henry said to bring well-known singers like John Legend to Tobago was very costly.
Attorney General and committee member Faris Al-Rawi said improvement must be a shared responsibility between the THA and Central Government. Al-Rawi added that several initiatives to improve the island have already been put in place including the establishment of four marinas.
Henry, who urged that more discussions take place, said a lot of focus must be placed on tourism. He said Tobago was expected to lose one of its largest cruise ships next year due to poor facilities at the port.
Roach said there have been several previous conversations on the issue and what was needed was implementation.
Honorary director of the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association, Carlos Dillon, said marketing was a key factor needed to promote the destination which must be done in an efficient manner.
The association’s president Chris James said not enough had been pumped into marketing, adding, “We have to have 12 months ahead of time the marketing funds because the industry is very dynamic.”
The committee also heard a recommendation that $300 million be set aside to boost marketing strategies, to begin to properly market Tobago.