We sometimes underrate the impact that the air bridge has on Tobago’s life and economy. Tourism may be described as the lifeblood of Tobago’s economic activity, and the majority of businesses are dependent on this sector. From the cottage industry that makes sugarcake to the toprated hotel that must supply an international menu to its clientele as well as supplies for retail operations, all have to be brought over from the larger island.
Apart from this fact, we all know that as soon as school closes for the July/ August holidays, a greater number of people begin to travel back and forth between the islands. For Christmas, Easter and Carnival people are travelling with a similar frequency.
During the much anticipated Tobago Heritage Festival people flock to the island. In addition, with many more events generally taking place in Tobago and more Tobagonians attending events in Trinidad, there are several peak periods that need to be catered to by the interisland service. Despite knowing the peak periods, there has not been success in taking the relevant action to satisfy the demand by persons travelling back and forth on domestic flights. Unless the situation is rectified, it is obvious it will only get worse, and require more time, money and effort to correct.
Under normal circumstances, a passenger travelling by air between Trinidad and Tobago in the off season may be met with delayed flights that could cause them to be late by hours. That scenario is exacerbated when the number of people travelling is increased, resulting in increased stress and discomfort for clients of the service.
International visitors are not the only ones that contribute to Tobago’s economy; domestic tourism is just as important. The air bridge must therefore be recognised as an essential service, and the mindset that gives regional and international passengers higher priority than domestic passengers needs to change.
It is indeed commendable that both the air and ferry services add thousands of seats to accommodate passengers during peak periods.
However, this has to be linked to some legitimately identified projection of the number of passengers who are interested in making the journey between the islands.
Many people still choose to avoid the peak period rush because of the uncertainty associated with the interisland transport services. Collection of statistical data specific to existing travel between the islands, as well as those who desire to travel is essential in the instance. This is the only way we will be able to arrive at a concrete solution for this ongoing problem.
It is often said that charity begins at home, and while the residents of Tobago are certainly not charity cases, we all have to recognise that they have specific needs. Not only is it essential to treat our own citizens well because they deserve it but also because they are needed for the economy to grow and prosper