Tobago could become a duty-free shopping hub
Tobago tourism authorities support turning island into economic free zone.
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad and Tobago, Thursday, June 7, 2012 – Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago Kamla Persad-Bissessar has announced that serious consideration is being given to repositioning as an economic free zone.
The prime minister made this announcement during the recent official opening of Magdalena Grand Resort on Tobago.
"We will partner with the [Tobago House of Assembly] and of course the people of Tobago on two other important initiatives, to which we are giving consideration, so it is not a decision yet, but we are looking at these two areas again to build capacity, tourism and of course help to develop the people of Tobago. The first to do, making Tobago an economic zone so we can have it as a duty free island, that means we can attract more visitors to Tobago," said Persad-Bissessar.
"In order for us to do that I just want us to understand when we say duty free zone it doesn't mean those of us from Trinidad can come across and buy things here, we will have people with non Trinidad and Tobago passport to benefit from a duty free area," she added.
She also announced that approval had been given by the Cabinet to establish a TT$250 million fund, which would provide for debt restructuring for Tobago businesses, and which could also be accessed by hoteliers in order to upgrade their hotels. She said the fund would start with immediate capitalisation of TT$100 million, and annual contributions for the next three years of $50 million to reach the quarter billion dollar target.
These measures have reportedly received endorsement from Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association president Nicholas Hardwicke, who suggested that making Tobago a duty-free zone should encourage significant tourism and investment activity on the island.
"We have not had that facility in Tobago. The type of shops on the island don't support this type of leisure activity. We think it will be a significant development for the visiting community, an interesting opportunity for retailers and entrepreneurs, as well as provide employment opportunities," Hardwicke told another section of the media.
Persad-Bissessar also spoke of exploring the feasibility of introducing the island's first marina that will operate to international standards.
Hardwicke reportedly described this as a very positive development.
"We are renowned for being outside the active hurricane zone, unlike a lot of other islands; we produce a lot of raw materials on this island that yachties need, and at lower costs, so there is no reason that with the right facilities, Tobago cannot become one of the more premier leisure and pleasure craft mooring facilities in the region," he is quoted to have said.