Beach closure influenced THA election


Frankie Tours reef boat workers get the motor ready Sunday ahead of the beaches reopening Monday from 5 a.m. to noon. The beaches had been closed since April in order to curb the spread of covid19. -David Reid

POPULAR reef tour operator Michael Frank, owner of Frankie Tours, believes beach closures played a role in the PNM’s heavy 14-1 loss to the PDP in the December 6 elections for the Tobago House of Assembly (THA ).

Frank was speaking to Newsday on Sunday ahead of Monday’s beaches reopening from 5 a.m. to noon.

There was an expression of relief from businessmen in the tourism sector in Tobago, following the Prime Minister’s decision to reopen the beaches after eight months. Beaches, rivers and ponds were closed in April as a measure to protect against the spread of covid19. Only the beaches have been reopened.

Frank, who has been a tour operator for 35 years, said he hopes to restart his business on Wednesday.

He said: ‘I have already put covid19 health protocols in place for customers and workers following the Prime Minister’s announcement. The Prime Minister had said he hoped to open the beaches before Christmas, so I was already prepared.

Due to the time restriction, Frank said he will be taking one trip per day, from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.

“I have four boats but currently one is operational. The boats were out of service for nine months and during that time they developed structural damage, engine problems and needed repairs.

“I already have reservations but there are still several issues to sort out before restarting…I need to finalize the insurance and although the beaches are open we still need to get clearance from the marine division (THA) to use the Buccoo Reef.”

Frank, who operates out of Store Bay and Pigeon Point, said most of the bookings he has received are from Trinidadians coming to Tobago over the Christmas period.

He described the nine months off as frustrating for his family and employees.

“My business is 100% tourism based and it has become difficult to meet my expenses and keep my workers employed. I have actually had to lay off workers and turn to agriculture to make ends meet .”

He believes the beach closures had an impact on the outcome of the Dec. 6 THA election.

“The closure of beaches has had a negative impact on the tourism industry, and I think at least 80% of industry players voted against the Prime Minister.

“We felt this was unfair and they feared the tourism sector as they were opening bars and restaurants indoors and closing a facility outdoors. And the same way they can social distance and have safe zones on land at restaurants, bars and water parks, they can do the same on a boat and on the beach.