The popular Store Bay beach in Tobago was again empty as citizens stayed away due to the COVID-19 restrictions. The island’s tourism sector is taking a major hit due to the measures put in place for the virus.

Tobago Tourism Agency Limited (TTAL) chief executive officer Louis Lewis says four hoteliers will receive their COVID-19 grant cheques today.

Earlier this year, the Government decided to give Tobago’s hoteliers, guest house owners and bed and breakfast establishments $50 million in relief grants to assist them in refurbishing their properties while they are closed because of the pandemic.

The closure of this country’s international borders in late March to prevent the spread of the pandemic resulted in accommodation sector stakeholders shutting their doors.

Speaking with Tobago Today via telephone yesterday Lewis said some hoteliers will begin receiving grants.

“We are very close to giving out the cheques. As a matter of fact, four cheques are ready,” Lewis said.

“We started to do inspections and we have signed off on the contracts, so between today (yesterday) and tomorrow (today), they (hoteliers) will actually begin receiving the cheques.”

He added: “We have been doing the necessary checks to ensure contracts are signed, the assessment is completed, the auditors have gone out and reviewed the scope of work and confirmed that is it satisfactory. We are following the process.”

Louis told Tobago Today that some 30 businesses have signed up for the grant so far.

“We are hoping that we can sign off on more of the 30 contracts as much as we can so that the grants can be given out.”

He stressed that although the TTAL, the legal body responsible for marketing Tobago and developing the island’s tourism product, is anxious to give the grants, it also wants to ensure that businesses receiving the funds meet the criteria set out in the framework agreement.

In addition to the $50 million grant from the Government, Tobago businesses in the ancillary tourism sector are benefiting from a $5 million payout.

Those businesses are involved in areas such as adventure and recreation, weddings and events, tours and transportation.

Secretary of Community Development, Enterprise Development and Labour Marslyn Melville-Jack announced at a recent press conference that the grants are to be used to assist with costs associated with inventory, storage, online marketing and environmentally-friendly projects.