File Photo: Competitors in the B Class Classic Goat Race run down the track during the 94th Annual Buccoo Goat and Crab Race Festival at the Buccoo Integrated Facility, Tobago.

A big part of this country’s Easter tradition usually includes an increase in domestic arrivals to Tobago which becomes the mecca of all activities.

In addition to the holiday-makers, there’s the Easter Tuesday Goat and Crab Races and one of the country’s biggest gospel concerts “In His Presence.”

The global tourism industry is still in recovery and adjusting to the COVID-19 pandemic, but this country’s closed international borders has strategically poised Tobago to capitalise on the domestic tourism market.

Officials have reported an increase in bookings for this year’s Easter weekend and all stakeholders say they are ready.

President of the Buccoo Goat and Crab Race Committee Natasha Roachford Chance said the event is back on for 2021.

“Originally we thought of pre-recording the event and then doing a premier on Easter Tuesday, but now we are exploring the possibility of actually having the event on the day with controlled numbers,” she said.

But while the In His Presence gospel event will not come off this year, visitors are still heading to the island.

Chairman of the Tobago and Hotel and Tourism Association Chris James said his organisation has so far recorded a 53 per cent increase in bookings for the Easter period.

“Similar to what we saw for Christmas we have more persons coming to the island, and again we see persons choosing villas and guest houses as their choice of accommodation because at these locations they can create safety bubbles for themselves and their families.”

He also said that the choice of villas and self-catering guest houses could also be because of the continued restrictions on restaurants, as “persons may also find it more convenient cook for themselves and consume alcohol without the restrictions.”

James said he believes the tourism sector is ready to effectively manage the COVID-19 risk.

“Almost all of our stakeholders—hotels, guesthouses, villa owners and their employees are continuous participants in online COVID-19 safety training programmes that are being offered by CARPHA and we have more persons enrolling in the Safe Travel Stamp programme,” James said.

The Safe Travel Stamp programme was designed by the World Tourism Travel Council (WTTC). It’s a globally recognised guideline for tourism stakeholders which indicates that health and hygiene global protocols are being observed.

In December 2020 Tourism Tobago Agency Limited CEO Louis Lewis said a total of 51 tourism stakeholders were signatories of the programme. Just this month the agency announced that “the destination now has more than 100 tourism businesses signed up for the WTTC “Safe Travels” stamp!

Meanwhile, Chief Executive Officer of the Trinidad and Tobago Inter-island Transportation Company Vilma Lewis- Cockburn assured that the sea-bridge is prepared for the influx of passengers.

“We have very robust guidelines in place at both the ports of Trinidad and Tobago, these systems are aptly able to treat with an increase in persons so we are ready.”

She said systems are continuously evaluated for effectiveness to ensure that travellers remain safe.

Corporate Communications manager of the Airports Authority of Trinidad and Tobago Zola Joseph said the Authority’s strict COVID-19 health and safety protocols remain in place at both the Piarco and ANR Robinson International Airports, as guided by the Ministry of Health.

“The Authority conducts continuous risk assessments and evaluations of our traffic flows, processes and operations and responds proactively by implementing the required adjustments to mitigate the risks of the spread of COVID-19 at our airports.”

And Secretary for Health, Wellness and Family Development Tracy Davidson-Celestine said the division is monitoring all developments.

“The Division will continue to work with its necessary stakeholders to ensure they have everything in place to accommodate the anticipated increase in visitors on the island and ensure the Public Health protocols are being adhered.”