signing ceremony: Director of Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Commerce Reyaz Ahamad, from left; Chamber chairman Diane Hadad, Eximbank chief executive Brian Awang; Tourism Secretary Tracey Davidson-Celestine; Tourism Minister Stephen Cadiz; and chairman of the Tourism Development Company Brian Frontin at the Mt Irvine Bay Hotel in Tobago yesterday during the signing ceremony for the Tobago Tourism Development Fund. —Photo: elizabeth williams

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Hoteliers get access to tourism $$

By Elizabeth Williams Tobago Bureau

Struggling hoteliers in the Tobago tourism industry now have official access to the Tobago Tourism Development Fund. 

The signing ceremony yesterday followed the work of the Tobago Division of the Chamber of Commerce over the past five years toward the implementation of the Debt Restructuring and Economic Stimulus Plan which was approved by Government in 2012 and launched in October 2012. 

Chairman of the Tobago arm of the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Commerce, Diane Hadad, said yesterday the fund was created to assist businesses in Tobago that were affected by the global economic recession. 

The Tobago Division has been instrumental in providing information on the Tobago Tourism Development Fund to members of the Chamber and other private sector stakeholders in Tobago. 

“The fund is for tourism-based businesses in Tobago which will allow debt-restructuring and provide assistance for room stock upgrading and expansion. New applicants to the programme would not be required to pay fees for one year from June 18, 2013 to June 18,  2014. 

This was a process five years in the making, after the Chamber pressed the Tobago House of Assembly and the government to address the situation effectively,” Hadad said. 

The programme was officially launched at a special signing ceremony at the Mt Irvine Bay Hotel in Tobago yesterday. Eximbank chief executive Brian Awang said 39 applicants of the programme have been approved or are in the process of being approved. 

The programme will be in place over a five-year period where $50 million in grants will be available. 

The fund makes available a total of $250 million for the cash-strapped tourism industry in Tobago, it was said last year.

A southern Caribbean cruise route is also closer to being established and should be launched in October, Tourism Minister Stephen Cadiz said yesterday at the signing.

“Port of Spain would be the home port of the cruise route and it will service the islands of St Lucia, St Vincent, Grenada, Tobago and Trinidad. 

As the ministry is close to establishing five new airlifts out of Tobago,  the way in which Caribbean Airlines operates must change immediately to complement the stimulation efforts of the tourism industry, he said, adding that the Ministry of Tourism will be embarking on a nationwide education awareness programme to teach citizens the importance of tourism. 

He said he will be writing to THA Chief Secretary Orville London, advising him to select a representative to sit on the board of the Tourism Development Company (TDC).          

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