Island Girl Catamaran

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Mark Entz
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Island Girl Catamaran

Post by Mark Entz » Fri Jun 09, 2017 6:04 pm

I received and email yesterday that Island Girl Catamaran was discontinuing their services in Tobago. My wife and I enjoyed their cruise in 2014 and planned to do it again in 2018. The reason they gave was because of the "present state of tourism" in Tobago. I am not sure what that means, but if anyone could clarify this please let me know. Thanks

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Re: Island Girl Catamaran

Post by Sjaak En Marieke » Fri Jun 09, 2017 6:46 pm


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Re: Island Girl Catamaran

Post by Steve Wooler » Sat Jun 10, 2017 8:35 am

Hi Mark

Tobago's tourism industry is going through a pretty disastrous period, I'm afraid. There will be a lot of casualties in all aspects of hospitality and tourism. The lack of direct flights from Europe and North America plus the fiasco of the inter-island ferry situation is simply making it too complex and/or difficult for either foreign or domestic holidaymakers to consider the island. It is such a pity about Island Girl because it was undoubtedly one of the "must-do" activities for visitors to the island. They have clearly decided to cut their losses and move the boat elsewhere. So sad!
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Paul Tallet
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Re: Island Girl Catamaran

Post by Paul Tallet » Mon Jun 12, 2017 12:51 am

The theory that Tobago's Tourism Industry is going through a disastrous period is probably an understatement.

I took a trip with Island Girl about 18 years ago when I first visited Tobago (as a tourist) and stayed in a resort. Every single person on the trip was from a Resort and I recall it well because of this amazing American that was picked up from Coco Resort with his family ... he wore a toupee and I spent the whole day in complete and utter wonder as to how this thing didn't come off as he snorkeled around at our various stops along the Carribbean coastline ... may be it wasn't a Toupee, it could have been the Rum Punch :shock: Perhaps it was a comb-over ... hmmm ... no, surely comb-overs were banned years ago, surely 8-[

Anyway, leaving my indiscretions to one side, to the best of my knowledge Island Girl only seemed to get business from the Resorts (which is why I benefited from their excellent service) and, possibly, from other personal recommendations, journals and internet searches. I have never since been approached by anyone offering trips on Island Girl and, yet, I have seen the catamaran in Castara Bay very regularly and as recently as December/January 2016/17.

My point is ... Tobago's Tourism Industry is shot and will take some time to recover, if at all. But it is the resorts that are hit the worst ... in the middle of the last high season 2016/17 ... for example, from what I have seen:-

- Rex Turtle ... empty and looking run down ... no one on the beach.

- Grand Courland - very empty, no one on the beach ... in fact, while I was on a trip with Brian (Ali-Ba-Ba) we passed Grand Courland Beach and we saw someone on the beach and, with my well known dry sense of humour, I shouted, ' look, there's a tourist' , some on the boat laughed, some didn't ... it seemed like I had made a sick joke. I visited the Waves Restaurant twice in addition, no one was there ... just me.

- Magdalena ... Few in the restaurants, generally inactive.

- Blue Waters ... less than 50% capacity but at least there were some life forms.

- Coco Reef ... looking from the outside, the Beach was poorly populated.

- Castara ... better, but you could eat anywhere, none of the eateries were full ... 10 years ago you had to get your glad rags on and get to the table before sunset ... or starve!

Charlottesville ... a disaster, mainly due to the building works.

Pigeon Point ... more like Pigeon Pointless. Only Trini weekenders.

I could reel off many more examples but, in my humble opinion, the demise of Island Girl is more or less in line with the demise of the Resorts in Tobago. Non-resort business is still very much alive (as in Castara) and only thanks to some of the local Tobago businesses, but even this is reducing.

I booked my flights for next December/January 2017/18 while I was in Castara due to the fact that (I can't remember why) there were about 40 seats allocated to Tobago (the rest to Barbados) ... I would not be surprised to receive notice of their cancellation.

In a selfish way, I am not complaining because I have been concerned that tourism in Tobago could ruin Tobago ... but ironically, tourism (the lack of) could still ruin Tobago.

I wonder how that Sandals Resort development is going ?!?

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Re: Island Girl Catamaran

Post by Hugh S » Mon Jun 12, 2017 4:05 pm

Paul and all,

I couldn't help thinking about Sandals while reading your well-informed post. Hopefully the upside to the poor tourism news is that all-inclusive mega resorts will look elsewhere.

Could a downturn like this cause people (in service related jobs) to better appreciate the tourism business?

Always hopeful, Hugh 8)

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Re: Island Girl Catamaran

Post by Paul Tallet » Tue Jun 13, 2017 12:52 am

Hello Hugh

Most of the Resorts have their 'cosy clubs' of recommended tour operators and probably take a decent back-hander from these local businesses.

I really don't think Tobago's tourism has benefited from the resorts because few are owned by Tobago Businesses. Sandals may bring infra-structure opportunities and employment but the majority of any profits will go to the shareholders of the business and not to Tobago.

On my first visit, way back in time and space, I stayed at the Rex Turtle Residential Home and we were allocated an 'agent' that sat us all down to tell us what we could do and where to go. Only one tour operator was recommended for each trip ... no competition for the tourists.

I took up the following options:-

- A Glass Bottom Boat Trip from Pigeon Pointless with sandals supplied for free so that no one wouldn't hurt their feet as they stomped all over the Coral (this was a long time ago).

- Island Girl (to which this forum refers). Wonderful trip to Castara and back, again from Pigeon Pointless.

- A sweat inducing, brain draining bus tour (with no air conditioning) of Tobago including a boat trip to Angel Reef in Speyside where I nearly drowned having been given a faulty snorkel and then lunch at Jemma's Tree House.

Rather than spend anymore money on these tours I decided to break out of the Residential Home and escape in a Hire Car for a day and got completely lost following the main roads around Tobago. What a wonderful day and a day that would bring me back to Tobago again and again having discovered so many wonderful places.

I was able to check out all these Guesthouses I saw on the travels and note them for future reference when I would be back. My subsequent research narrowed the field down to either the Turpin Cottages in Charlottesville or the Naturalist Beach Resort in Castara (of course this was before I found myTobago!).

The Naturalist won mainly because the owner, Ancle, provided all the right answers to my annoying emails ... I mean, can you imagine getting the answers to 'how deep is the sea' from a Tour Operator or Resort? Ancle would say, 'you can go far where it is deep and you can go near where it is shallow ... you will find your comfort zone sir'.

Done deal ... never been in a resort since, apart from once because they do make very nice breakfasts :mrgreen:

Anyway, the point is, quite a number of local tour operators depended on the resorts, most of which you will know are down the west end of Tobago. So when the resorts suffer, the tour operators suffer.

The suffering is less extreme as you venture east to the more remoter parts of Tobago. Business is poor but probably more manageable because most of the real Tobago businesses had more realistic expectations based on their competition with the main resorts and, of course, this is where I believe the hard core repeater visitors go ... so as long as the flight operators do not disappear altogether, there should be some good tourism business for them to thrive on.

In addition, many of these local Tobago Businesses have other businesses (i.e.; fishing) and have not been fully dependent on Tourism.

I think that credit should be given to British Airways and Thomas Cook/Condor that allocate seatings for Tobago on their Caribbean flights to other more popular Caribbean Islands from the UK, even if there is a measure of inconvenience with the stop offs on the way there or on the way back.

I wonder, is Monarch still doing it?

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Rachel Crew
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Re: Island Girl Catamaran

Post by Rachel Crew » Tue Jun 13, 2017 6:05 pm

While I agree with quite a few of your points Paul, I think perhaps you're overestimating how much we have relied on 'resorts' and that the effect is not only on these larger establishments but throughout the hospitality sector in Tobago. Island Girl, like ourselves, did indeed get a good number of guests from the resorts when business was at it's peak some years ago, however even then (and more so in recent years) many guests book independently and come from all types of accomodation - villas, self catering apartments, guest houses, smaller hotels. ALL of these have been affected by the down turn in tourism. Evidence is right there in the number of restaurants and other supporting businesses that have closed up shop, plus the number of villas and small hotels/etc that are up for sale. We know of many businesses throughout the island that are affected (Castara being perhaps the only exception.) These are not big operations, they are small individuals, couples, families. The current situation is nothing short of catastrophic for the tourism industry as a whole in Tobago.

BTW, Monarch stopped flying here a while back .
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Re: Island Girl Catamaran

Post by Paul Tallet » Tue Jun 13, 2017 10:21 pm

Hello Rachel

I see your point very clearly and it is a sorry situation.

My point was that those Businesses that were lucky enough to have contracts/agreements/deals/whatever with resorts and tour operators are the ones that have had the hardest falls, like the resorts.

But surely you cannot deny that, when the business was coming in, you had to take it ... and I really hope that you made so much money that you now have the financial strength to ride over the current depression in hope that things could recover.

It is the beginning of the low season so I guess there could be a few businesses closing down and maybe not coming back for the high season.

I am so pleased to see your input. I wish more businesses could contribute to these discussions.

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Re: Island Girl Catamaran

Post by Carol G » Wed Jun 14, 2017 3:03 pm

Hi All,
Have been following the comments..and somewhat not surprised, but also sadden that after all this time Island Girl is leaving and have wondered how long before other business have to or choose to close their doors.
http://www.tobagotoday.co.tt/news/touri ... sses-mount

Sandals seems to still be an ongoing prospect, from 12 June 2017 article in T&T Newday:
"Rowley spoke yesterday at a large gathering of supporters of the PNM at its annual Family Fun Day held at the Eddie Hart Ground, Tacarigua.
In Tobago, he said, discussions were held this morning with Sandals Resort and one aspect of the project is the development of a world class golf course.
Noting there are two other golf courses in Tobago, he said that when the Sandals project is completed, the golf courses would complement those in Barbados and Jamaica so that the Caribbean can host international golfing tournaments at the highest level. "
Not so happy cheers ,
Carol

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