One of the things I have always believed in is the concept of beat reporting. For the non journalists it is about covering one specific area so that you specialise in that part of journalism, develop your contacts and are able to tell the story, the real story, to your audience in a way and with confidence that a general reporter won’t be able to.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of general news coverage by my colleagues and it makes it far more difficult for individual reporters to move out of the reporting mode of the “he said she said” and really drill down on the issues.
It is why so much of what happens in T&T does not get the kind of rigour and scrutiny it deserves.
The past year, as we moved from being mortified of dying from the coronavirus, to accepting that we had to alter our lives and interactions to survive, we recognised that many of us are about to lose or have lost so much of our sustenance. We even accepted that Carnival, which would normally give the economy such a fillip, and ourselves an opportunity to exhale, that too had to be shelved. Then came the hope of the vaccines and now the realisation that our government has dropped the ball and we are likely to get vaccinated when it’s not longer a priority for others.
All of this—the reporting, the picking sense from nonsense, the keeping-them-honest—has been left to journalists who have either never before covered the health sector nor have the experience to hold people to account.
It is why I am not confident we will ever get real answers to the way the country handled the crisis, other than the politically motivated, self congratulatory, self idolisation of the government and its supporters, and the rhetoric from the Opposition that, regardless of what the government does, it is not going to be good enough.
It is why I decided that in this column I will not spend more space talking about how this bungling by Minister Terrence Deyalsingh et al will ultimately lead to longer periods in this economic comatose state we exist in. I am not going to write about the government’s limiting of our ability to a restaurant or bar, where the businesses that are being brought to ruin are being told it’s the price you have to pay for living in a pandemic, where the economy is taking on more debt that generations will have to repay, where the Minister of Finance Colm Imbert can boast he will continue to borrow and access the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund to pay salaries. No, I will not write on that!
I decided that it must be difficult for the country to constantly read and make sense of what appears to be our zombie-like walk from crisis to crisis, our economy on standstill and no clear explanation why restaurants cannot serve alcohol legally, because many are quietly serving it, which businesses must be limited to 10 pm and why with the recent case numbers the government continues to choose winners and losers in the economy.
Talking about these issues will perhaps only let someone attack you for being anti government, or antiquated by those who, if you listen to them closely, you know they are like what Shakespeare describes as a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more.
So when I considered the above I decided I should write on the good work that the Tobago Tourism Agency Ltd (TTAL) is engaged in to seek to prepare the island post COVID-19.
According to its CEO Louis Lewis, the TTAL recognised from early that because the borders were being closed as a result of a pandemic associated with a health issue, health and wellness will be crucial going forward.
In other words, it would be necessary to offer accommodation to visitors where they will feel it is safe and of the highest standard in terms of cleanliness.
According to Lewis the island then went after, and got, the World Tourism and Travel Safe Travel stamp.
There was also a decision to brand the island in keeping with the increasing demand for eco-tourism.
He said; “Our branding speaks to the natural environment and what is our core attractors. So we have struck an alliance with medium and what we consider as resilient traveller groups that represent what the island offers so you will see our branding that has a very strong eco-attractiveness to it or should I say sustainable. That heavy green and a natural environment and that is no accident,” he said adding that in the wake of the pandemic, with tourism expected to be even more competitive than ever, Tobago had to do more to stand out.
“We pair the branding with that which the attributes of what the country has done. Of course in an environment where people are looking for healthy options, off the beaten track, non-mass market and looking for environmentally recognised brands, we fit right into that stream,” he said.
Lewis talked about staying in touch with the airlines that fly to Tobago and he was happy to report that they have all promised to return Tobago to their schedule once the borders are reopened.
The chief executive officer of TTAL said there was work on improving the tourism plant on the island.
There is no guarantee that Lewis and his team’s plans will work, but at least he can articulate something that sounds thought out and possible.
It is that kind of clarity we need in tourism and understanding the forward and backward linkages between tourism, agriculture, services, forex and the wider economy.
But, as I write, enthused by what Mr Lewis had to say, I could not help myself in asking what if the other destinations are vaccinated before us, as it appears they will be, and the source markets are also, as they will be, then that pent up demand was unlikely to come to a market where the virus remained a real risk to the wider population and where it may be necessary to operate with great limits?
I said to myself that surely the man who says he is the greatest salesman of Tobago and Trinidad will not allow such an opportunity to fall away from the sister isle.
Then I realised it may be easier to get herd immunity in Tobago. All you have to do is vaccinate 60,000 people. But then here we go again.
Curtis Williams was last seen reading the latest news of vaccine arrivals in Caribbean countries.