Tobago Carnival

THA Secretary of Tourism, Culture and Antiquities Tashia Grace Burris – Photo by David Reid

SECRETARY of Tourism, Culture, Antiquities and Transportation Tashia Burris says the THA is seeking to engage other airlines to bring people from within the region and other overseas destinations to Tobago for next year’s October carnival.

She spoke on Tuesday during a news conference at the Shaw Park Cultural Complex, which included carnival stakeholders and members of the Tobago Emergency Management Agency and police and fire services.

Burris was responding to a question about Caribbean Airlines (CAL’s) ability to satisfy the demand for domestic travellers ahead of the carnival, which takes place from October 27-29.

She said several months ago, bandleaders reached out to CAL for additional airlift for the carnival, and additional flights were added about two weeks ago.

“But the reality is that we don’t get enough to supply the demand that people have for the destination,” Burris said.

She acknowledged that CAL is a business and does not regard Tobago as one of its more profitable routes.

“That’s fine. It means that there is room for other persons, there is room for other operators, and it’s time for us to have those types of conversations.”

Burris said while the THA is happy for what it is getting by way of flights, especially arising out of the covid19 pandemic, “We know that there is more we can get, because certainly the plan is to get back to what our pre-covid number of flights were.”

She added the island cannot continue to “put all of our eggs in CAL’s basket. So for us the responsible thing to do will be to engage all of our counterparts in the region.”

Burris said TT is a signatory to several air services agreements, which allows those types of conversations.

“And we are having those conversations because we are not just marketing the Tobago carnival for a domestic audience. The intention is to market the Tobago carnival for a regional and international audience.

“In order for us to be able to see the benefits…we have to ensure that we solve the challenge that people have currently, which is to get to the destination.”

Burris said there is a need for efficient inter-island transport, not just seasonally.

“We have to appreciate that when you look at the air- and seabridge, you are not just dealing with people who want to come for a short period of time and then leave when they need to but you are also dealing with the residents of the island who have to traverse between Tobago and Trinidad for their normal everyday business.”

But she believes the growth of the festival must be looked at.

“We can’t start to market regionally and internationally if we cannot supply the demand that is there from simply across the seas.

“So in planning for next year’s edition, certainly airlift is at the front of my mind in terms of one of the things that we have to do as an administration, as a division of tourism.”

During the planning for this carnival, Burris observed, “There has been a growth in the capacity of the local stakeholders to be able to execute this festival on their own.”

She said in time, the THA could simply play the role of sponsor and facilitator.

“But the things that they cannot treat with on their own, like airlift, will be the responsibility of the THA, and we are aggressively pursuing all options that we have to ensure that even if CAL cannot supply the demand, that Tobago at least maybe has other options.”

News Courtesy Trinidad and Tobago Newsday: Corey Connelly