Closed for two years, Crooks sells apartments in Tobago
The covid19 pandemic has dealt a terrible blow to the business community for more than a year.
The tourism industry has suffered the biggest blow due to restrictions on international and domestic travel to curb the spread of the virus.
Even if the vaccines are administered and Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis professed that there is a “light at the end of the tunnel”, some companies will not see the light.
Tobago businessman Ronnie Ryan Crooks confirmed to Newsday on Wednesday that he had sold his Crooks apartments at Crown Point to a local buyer.
Crooks, 61, said financial challenges made the decision to sell it easy.
“It’s not a difficult decision if you’ve been out of business for two years.
“I’m getting older – I’m not getting any younger. Someone younger has to be able to handle the trials and tribulations of trying to maintain and conduct business in TT.
“I finished putting a line in the water to catch a client. If I was younger I would have been up for the challenge because I know the possibility.”
Crooks, born in Trinidad, said he grew up in New York City before moving to Tobago to take back the possessions his grandfather left him.
He owned the apartments for 22 years.
He said the economic blow caused by the pandemic and unreasonable demands from banks left him with little choice.
“It’s a question of several things.
“We’re trying to stay afloat. I thought the banks were going to work with us. (Bank name called) didn’t hold up as far as customers are concerned, to try and enable them to survive this pandemic. They are constantly calling you on (overdue) loans. You have to find other options and alternatives in order to find your way.
“Here’s the trick: they want you, even though it’s a pandemic and you can’t do business, if you have a large amount of money you have to pay back, if you are in arrears, they don’t. not offer you any help – even if the reason you are in arrears is legitimate and right in front of you. ”
He added: “If you have a month of arrears, two months, (the bank) is not giving you a chance to get out of it – because you are in arrears.”
Crooks said the banks were not showing compassion in this tough economic climate.
“That’s why the government is proposing the moratorium – to let you float on this rough sea. They think you can make money out of thin air.”
He believes the government should take more decisive action to support business owners.
“They should mandate it. They leave it to those financial institutions that only think about money. They don’t think about helping you. They think you might have some valuable asset that we can take and they can sell it. to someone else at times like this. ”
Although hotels and small properties in Tobago received a $ 50 million grant for improvements, Crooks said he had no access to any funding.
“I went through the secured loan program they put in place about eight years ago. I used it to upgrade and didn’t need to do any other upgrades, which helped me because if I had upgraded regularly I would have been further away from backlogs and problems today. ”
He lamented: “I just think the banks are predatory.”
Crooks, whose building has six apartments and an outdoor pool, said that while it welcomes foreign visitors, Trinidadians mainly frequent its accommodation.
“When we decided to slowly reopen (last year), I had clients.
“Trinidad has been my savior, to be honest. Eighty-five percent of my clients are from Trinidad.”
He said four permanent employees and landscapers were affected by the sale of the apartments.
“Hopefully the guy who takes over will be ready to hire the people who worked for me, who understand the logistics.”
Asked about the Prime Minister’s plan to reopen the borders in a month if covid19 numbers continue to drop,
Crooks said he was hopeful.
“The key to this is vaccination. But the vaccine rollout (walk-in) was not done smartly. You had mass hysteria.
“You have people seeing what’s going on in the United States with people doing their normal things and people want it.”
He said a more efficient system needed to be implemented.
“I’m not taking it out on the government, because I understand this disease, but people are dying and they have to find a way to put the vaccine in people’s arms.”
He expects a huge increase in tourism when this is achieved.
“As long as the vaccine is in the arms and we have herd immunity, I can see this happening soon. relax after two years of imprisonment. ”
Crooks said Tobago has huge untapped potential.
“I think once the borders open and the government does its part and advertises the product, it could be fabulous.
Tobago is the tropical (paradise), it could be like a French Riviera or a Spanish Riviera. They (Europe) have the vacation spots they can turn to. Tobago is underutilized and under-sold. ”
Crooks said he plans to travel the world once the border opens.
“What do I plan to do now? I want to see the world and breathe a little. This is something I look forward to.”