THA Secretary of Tourism, Culture, Antiquities and Transportation Tashia Burris is unhappy with the $2.5 billion allocated to the Tobago House of Assembly for fiscal 2023.
Burris was a guest on the Tobago Updates morning show on Wednesday, after Minister of Finance Colm Imbert’s presentation on Monday.
“I was left feeling a little disappointed, certainly, but I would wait for the presentation by the Minister of Finance to see what he is looking at in terms of what the ministry plans to do over the next fiscal (year).”
She said as she sat in the public gallery listening in, she expected “some strategic, progressive, bold moves being made by the government to really move the conversation about diversification forward.”
She acknowledged that TT on thewhole is an oil and gas economy, adding that Tobago’s situation in particular has to be looked at uniquely and apart from TT’s situation.
“The reality is that tourism can become a major economic driver for both of our islands."
As a result, she said, she had expected to hear "something radical, something bold, something progressive" from the Minister of Finance,"especially since we’re now coming out of this covid19 pandemic.”
She added: “When you look at our regional neighbours – Grenada, Barbados, Jamaica, Turks and Caicos, Cayman Islands, all of these territories – when you examine their policies, when you examine what they’re doing, the things that they're doing to try to rebuild their sector, to try to bring foreign investment into their respective countries, I just get the sense that we’re still not giving the kind of attention that we should to tourism.”
She said the THA “certainly...can’t wait for a central government to solve our problems for us, and we have no intentions of waiting on a central government to solve our problems for us.”
She said she is excited for the next fiscal year and some of the policies that would be put in place to ensure the island can move forward.
“I’m excited – in terms of building out some of our room stock, and there are several ways to do that – in terms of rolling out our community tourism initiatives, in terms of training, in terms of the sector and ensuring that our persons are ready to be part of this revitalisation of the service industry in Tobago.
"Incentives are always there, grants are always there, loan facilities are always there, so certainly the financial support from the THA would be there, in terms of ensuring that our businesses could now move from a place of just merely surviving to thriving.”
Asked about the increase in fares on both the airline and ferry from January 1, she said the timing was wrong.
“Timing to me is everything. I’m a marketing person, I studied marketing, and one of the things that you have to do in marketing is to ensure that the product that you’re trying to sell is one that people want.
"Regardless of the fact that CAL has this monopoly, the reality is that raising fares at this time – when people already cannot get flights, when people already have problems with efficiency, when people already have problems with your service – is not going to go down well. Certainly, there should have been consultations.”