CTO report shows fall in arrivals

The Caribbean Tourism Mar­ket is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing un­prece­dent­ed lev­els of growth, but while many Caribbean Is­lands are cel­e­brat­ing this re­bound, T&T will be left out of the cel­e­bra­tion as this coun­try record­ed one of the weak­est per­for­mances in the re­gion.

Ac­cord­ing to the lat­est re­port re­leased by the Caribbean Tourism Or­gan­i­sa­tion (CTO), T&T’s sec­tor de­clined by 2.2 per cent, with sig­nif­i­cant falls be­ing record­ed in cruise ship ar­rivals, tourist ar­rivals from Eu­ro­pean mar­kets as well as sig­nif­i­cant de­clines in ar­rivals from the Caribbean and Latin Amer­i­can mar­kets.

 

De­spite T&T’s per­for­mance, the Caribbean re­gion is the on­ly one in the world to record a dou­ble dig­it growth rate in ar­rivals dur­ing the first quar­ter of 2019.

The CTO es­ti­mat­ed a 12.0 per cent up­surge in ]ar­rivals to the Caribbean as the re­gion bounced back from the dev­as­ta­tion caused by the hur­ri­canes of 2017.

Col­lec­tive­ly, the Caribbean re­gion record­ed ap­prox­i­mate­ly 9.1 mil­lion in­ter­na­tion­al tourist trips be­tween Jan­u­ary and March 2019. This in­crease is equiv­a­lent to 12.0 per cent or ap­prox­i­mate­ly 970 thou­sand more trips when com­pared to the cor­re­spond­ing pe­ri­od of 2018

The re­port ex­am­ines the sec­tor spe­cif­ic da­ta for 22 des­ti­na­tions and was re­leased in June.

Ac­cord­ing to the da­ta, 19 des­ti­na­tions had pos­i­tive out­comes vary­ing be­tween 2.7 per cent in Bar­ba­dos and 183.6 per cent in An­guil­la.

Do­mini­can Re­pub­lic and Cu­ba record­ed the largest num­ber of vis­i­tors dur­ing the quar­ter, 1.9 mil­lion vis­its and 1.5 mil­lion vis­its, re­spec­tive­ly or 4.6 per cent and 4.9 per cent more than the same pe­ri­od a year ago.

Al­ter­na­tive­ly of the 22 des­ti­na­tions, T&T ranked the third low­est in its sec­tor per­for­mance. The group of des­ti­na­tions with the weak­est per­for­mances was com­prised of Haiti (-44.9 per cent) ow­ing to po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­i­ty, Bermu­da (-4.9 per cent) and T&T (-2.2 per cent).

CEO of The Trinidad Ho­tels, Restau­rants & Tourism As­so­ci­a­tion (THRTA), Bri­an Fron­tin isn’t sur­prised by the re­sults.

“Con­sis­tent last three years of da­ta they have com­plied. T&T as a mar­ket has lost over 60,000 tourists from 2015 to present. This is not sur­pris­ing.

He added that “T&T has stopped pro­mot­ing any sort of tourism ac­tiv­i­ty on the is­land in re­spect to TDC, can­cel­la­tion of over­sees mar­ket­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tives and off course slow rate of which the new tourism en­ti­ties have been ce­ment­ed and es­tab­lished.

“In Jan­u­ary there was a brand­ing ex­er­cise which brought to­geth­er the pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tor. From then till now, we have heard noth­ing.

He re­it­er­at­ed,“for every quar­ter T&T is not present, an­oth­er Caribbean des­ti­na­tion is gain­ing a foothold.”

The cruise ship in­dus­try is the fastest grow­ing seg­ment of the world­wide leisure trav­el mar­ket. This mar­ket has ex­pe­ri­enced an av­er­age pas­sen­ger growth rate of sev­en per cent an­nu­al­ly since 1980.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, Caribbean des­ti­na­tions re­ceived an es­ti­mat­ed 10.7 mil­lion cruise vis­its in the first quar­ter of 2019.

This record num­ber of cruise vis­its was an in­crease of 9.9 per cent or 0.9 mil­lion more cruise ar­rivals when com­pared to the same pe­ri­od of 2018 which con­tract­ed by two per cent

In No­vem­ber 2018, Tourism Min­is­ter Ran­dall Mitchell stat­ed that cruise ship ar­rivals in T&T has in­creased by ap­prox­i­mate­ly 145 per cent. He added that “91,889 pas­sen­gers vis­it­ing the coun­try for the 2018 cruise sea­son, an in­crease from 37,457 in 2017.”

De­spite the min­is­ter’s op­ti­mism, T&T reg­is­tered an al­most 30 per cent de­cline in ar­rivals, one of the largest in the re­gions.

In ab­solute num­bers, The Ba­hamas (1.5 mil­lion) and Cozumel (1.4 mil­lion) dom­i­nat­ed cruise ar­rivals in the re­gion and en­joyed in­creas­es of 11.2 per cent and 4.6 per cent, re­spec­tive­ly.

While in rel­a­tive terms, triple-dig­it growth was record­ed in Do­mini­ca (768.9 per cent), the British Vir­gin Is­lands (703.8 per cent), Bermu­da (136.8 per cent) and St Maarten (100.2 per cent).

The re­port stat­ed few­er cruise ar­rivals were record­ed in des­ti­na­tions which were sub­sti­tut­ed in­to the cruise itin­er­aries in ear­ly 2018 fol­low­ing hur­ri­canes. Mar­tinique (-33.6 per cent) and T&T (-28.8 per cent) reg­is­tered most sub­stan­tial de­clines.

In­ter­na­tion­al ar­rivals

T&T hinges its bets on Car­ni­val ac­tiv­i­ties to be a phillip for the tourism sec­tor. How­ev­er, in 2018, the coun­try record­ed a 9.5 per cent de­crease in tourist ar­rivals.

In Au­gust 2018, Camille Robin­son-Reg­is, Min­is­ter of Plan­ning of De­vel­op­ment, stat­ed the to­tal vis­i­tor ar­rivals to T&T for the 2018 cel­e­bra­tion was 33,873 peo­ple, with Trinidad record­ing 31,877 and To­ba­go 1,996 for the pe­ri­od un­der re­view.

The fig­ure rep­re­sent­ed a 9.5 per cent de­crease or 3,575 less per­sons ar­riv­ing in the coun­try for the cel­e­bra­tions.

While fig­ures for the 2019 have yet to be re­leased, judg­ing from the da­ta ex­trap­o­lat­ed from the CTO’s first quar­ter re­sults, T&T’s Car­ni­val ar­rivals may fol­low last year’s down­ward trend.

In its first quar­ter find­ing, the CTO fig­ures sug­gest Cana­di­an, Amer­i­can and Latin Amer­i­can vis­i­tors seem to be flock­ing to oth­er Caribbean des­ti­na­tions.

The re­port cites in­creased mar­ket­ing ac­tiv­i­ties es­pe­cial­ly in the Latin Amer­i­can coun­tries for the suc­cess in the oth­er is­lands.

In March 2019, this coun­try sent a con­tin­gent to the In­ter­na­tion­al Tourism Bourse (ITB) in Berlin.

Ac­cord­ing to the THA Chief Sec­re­tary Kevlin Charles, “To­ba­go re­ceived over­whelm­ing re­sponse and gar­nered great in­ter­est.”

Charles added, “The ini­tia­tive was aimed at in­creas­ing the is­land’s mar­ket share in the Eu­ro­pean mar­ket, as ITB is one of world’s lead­ing trav­el tourism shows.”

Time will tell whether this ini­tia­tive will yield any ben­e­fits, the CTO re­port states that in re­la­tion to Eu­ro­pean ar­rivals on­ly five coun­tries in­clud­ing T&T re­port­ed de­clines. These are:

Cu­ba (-11.3 per cent)

Do­mini­can Re­pub­lic (-4.3 per cent)

T&T (-7.9 per cent),

Cay­man Is­lands (-3.4 per cent)

Bermu­da (-1.1 per cent)

The re­main­ing des­ti­na­tions’ growth ranged from 0.9 per cent to 18.7 per cent.

Fron­tin is con­fi­dent that To­ba­go will re­gain its foot­ing with the Eu­ro­pean mar­ket.

“I am con­fi­dent they will re­cov­er lost ground. To­ba­go has been do­ing a lot of work. They have been ac­tive­ly push­ing plans to ce­ment their po­si­tion in the mar­ket.”

He cit­ed the wed­ding des­ti­na­tion mar­ket­ing plan as tes­ti­mo­ny to the is­land’s push to cor­rect­ing the mis­for­tunes of the past.

“The first quar­ter re­sults may not ad­e­quate­ly show the win­ter sea­son cy­cle will show for To­ba­go.”

Why are we fail­ing?

The CTO re­port stat­ed that sol­id per­for­mances were at­trib­uted to di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion of prod­ucts on of­fer, im­proved and ex­pand­ed air con­nec­tiv­i­ty from some mar­kets to the re­gion and greater col­lab­o­ra­tions with the tour op­er­a­tors and on­line dis­tri­b­u­tion chan­nels.

So can we get it right?

Fron­tin says a few things need to change.

He says T&T has to see tourism as a “not sup­ple­men­tary or tan­gen­tial” but as an “ av­enue for di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion and a for­eign ex­change earn­er.”

He cites mixed com­mu­ni­ca­tions and mixed mes­sages amongst key stake­hold­ers as one of the great­est fail­ings in the lo­cal sec­tor.

Fron­tin be­lieves tourism is an im­por­tant in­dus­try and “we need to fig­ure out what we are sell­ing and put nec­es­sary in­fra­struc­ture in place.”

1. The Caribbean re­gion record­ed un­prece­dent­ed lev­els of growth in the tourism sec­tor, but while most are cel­e­brat­ing we can­not share the for­tune. T&T is one of three des­ti­na­tions record­ing neg­a­tive growth in the sec­tor, why?

While ar­rival fig­ures as at March 2019 re­flects a 2.2 per cent de­cline to T&T, this may be at­trib­uted to neg­a­tive trav­el ad­vi­sories, the high cost of air trav­el to T&T from ma­jor Eu­ro­pean and North Amer­i­can source mar­kets, and the re­turn of cruise lines to ports pre­vi­ous­ly af­fect­ed by the dev­as­tat­ing hur­ri­canes in 2017. As at April 2019, there was how­ev­er a very small in­crease in ar­rivals to the des­ti­na­tion, which can be at­trib­uted to in­creas­es in ar­rivals from ma­jor source mar­kets.

2. The re­port states T&T reg­is­tered the most sub­stan­tial de­clines in cruise ship ar­rivals de­spite a boom in ar­rivals in oth­er sec­tors, have we lost this mar­ket?

While cruise ar­rivals re­flect a de­cline to T&T, this de­cline is at­trib­uted to the re-de­ploy­ment and re­turn of ships to des­ti­na­tions and pre­vi­ous ports of call that were af­fect­ed by the se­vere hur­ri­cane sea­son ex­pe­ri­enced by the re­gion in 2017. In oth­er words, the “growth” in cruise ar­rivals that T&T ex­pe­ri­enced in 2018 was anom­alous and oc­curred as a con­se­quence of the dev­as­ta­tion ex­pe­ri­enced by the oth­er is­lands dur­ing the hur­ri­cane sea­son of the pre­vi­ous year.

Fur­ther, T&T’s ge­o­graph­i­cal lo­ca­tion, be­ing the most souther­ly of the is­lands in the Caribbean, has been a hin­drance to in­creas­ing the num­ber of calls to the des­ti­na­tion by rea­son of the high cost to cruise lines to sail this far away from their home ports.

Both Trinidad and To­ba­go will con­tin­ue to ne­go­ti­ate with cruise lines for in­creased calls to the des­ti­na­tion. Cruise lines book their itin­er­aries two to three years in ad­vance and the re­sults of these ef­forts should be seen in the short term. The Port Au­thor­i­ty will pro­duce a fi­nal cruise ship sched­ule for the 2019/2020 in the up­com­ing months.

3. The re­port cov­ers the Car­ni­val pe­ri­od, it sug­gests de­clines in ar­rivals, are you an­tic­i­pat­ing low­er Car­ni­val ar­rivals?

The Cen­tral Sta­tis­ti­cal Of­fice mea­sures Car­ni­val ar­rivals us­ing the 19-day pe­ri­od lead­ing up to Car­ni­val Tues­day (in­clu­sive of Car­ni­val Tues­day). For the 2010 Car­ni­val sea­son, T&T ex­pe­ri­enced a five per cent in­crease in vis­i­tor ar­rivals to the des­ti­na­tion.

4. In re­la­tion to Eu­ro­pean ar­rivals on­ly five coun­tries re­port­ed a de­crease in ar­rivals, we are among the five, are these trade shows not pay­ing off?

The agen­cies with re­spon­si­bil­i­ty for mar­ket­ing and pro­mo­tion of the des­ti­na­tion at­tend trade shows and the ben­e­fits are ex­pect­ed to be re­alised with­in a two to three-year pe­ri­od. In March 2019, in­creas­es were seen in the fol­low­ing Eu­ro­pean coun­tries, Italy, Switzer­land, Poland, Aus­tria and Por­tu­gal.

5. The air­lift and room oc­cu­pan­cy was cit­ed in the re­port as con­tribut­ing fac­tors to the de­cline what are you do­ing to im­prove this?

• Im­proved mar­ket­ing of the des­ti­na­tion

• De­vel­op­ment of in­no­v­a­tive pack­ag­ing op­tions for the des­ti­na­tion

• Im­proved tourism prod­uct in­clu­sive of new niche ar­eas

• Col­lab­o­ra­tion with hote­liers to im­prove the qual­i­ty of room of­fer­ings

• Pro­mo­tion of the room up­grade pro­gramme to hote­liers to en­cour­age ac­cess to the pro­gramme

With re­spect of oc­cu­pan­cy, Air B&B is a phe­nom­e­non which is dis­rupt­ing and ad­verse­ly af­fect­ing the tra­di­tion­al ac­com­mo­da­tion providers.

6. Are you con­fi­dent the next half will be bet­ter?

As at May 2019, there was a very small in­crease in air ar­rivals to T&T com­pared to the same pe­ri­od in 2018. Mar­kets which in­creased in April 2019 in­clude USA, Cana­da, Ger­many, South Amer­i­ca, In­dia, Mex­i­co, Brazil, Japan, South Ko­rea, Por­tu­gal, Switzer­land, Nige­ria and Chi­na. If this trend con­tin­ues ar­rivals for 2019 should sur­pass 2018 fig­ures.

In ad­di­tion, T&T will be host­ing Car­ifes­ta in Au­gust 2019 and, to date, 21 coun­tries have reg­is­tered to par­tic­i­pate.

Tourism Min­is­ter Re­sponds

 

Tourism Min­is­ter Ran­dall Mitchell ad­dressed some of the is­sues on the sec­tor raised by the Busi­ness Guardian. Fol­low­ing are the ques­tions and his his re­spons­es.

1. The Caribbean re­gion record­ed un­prece­dent­ed lev­els of growth in the tourism sec­tor, but while most are cel­e­brat­ing we can­not share the for­tune. T&T is one of three des­ti­na­tions record­ing neg­a­tive growth in the sec­tor, why?

While ar­rival fig­ures as at March 2019 re­flects a 2.2 per cent de­cline to T&T, this may be at­trib­uted to neg­a­tive trav­el ad­vi­sories, the high cost of air trav­el to T&T from ma­jor Eu­ro­pean and North Amer­i­can source mar­kets, and the re­turn of cruise lines to ports pre­vi­ous­ly af­fect­ed by the dev­as­tat­ing hur­ri­canes in 2017. As at April 2019, there was how­ev­er a very small in­crease in ar­rivals to the des­ti­na­tion, which can be at­trib­uted to in­creas­es in ar­rivals from ma­jor source mar­kets.

2. The re­port states T&T reg­is­tered the most sub­stan­tial de­clines in cruise ship ar­rivals de­spite a boom in ar­rivals in oth­er sec­tors, have we lost this mar­ket?

While cruise ar­rivals re­flect a de­cline to T&T, this de­cline is at­trib­uted to the re-de­ploy­ment and re­turn of ships to des­ti­na­tions and pre­vi­ous ports of call that were af­fect­ed by the se­vere hur­ri­cane sea­son ex­pe­ri­enced by the re­gion in 2017. In oth­er words, the “growth” in cruise ar­rivals that T&T ex­pe­ri­enced in 2018 was anom­alous and oc­curred as a con­se­quence of the dev­as­ta­tion ex­pe­ri­enced by the oth­er is­lands dur­ing the hur­ri­cane sea­son of the pre­vi­ous year.

Fur­ther, T&T’s ge­o­graph­i­cal lo­ca­tion, be­ing the most souther­ly of the is­lands in the Caribbean, has been a hin­drance to in­creas­ing the num­ber of calls to the des­ti­na­tion by rea­son of the high cost to cruise lines to sail this far away from their home ports.

Both Trinidad and To­ba­go will con­tin­ue to ne­go­ti­ate with cruise lines for in­creased calls to the des­ti­na­tion. Cruise lines book their itin­er­aries two to three years in ad­vance and the re­sults of these ef­forts should be seen in the short term. The Port Au­thor­i­ty will pro­duce a fi­nal cruise ship sched­ule for the 2019/2020 in the up­com­ing months.

3. The re­port cov­ers the Car­ni­val pe­ri­od, it sug­gests de­clines in ar­rivals, are you an­tic­i­pat­ing low­er Car­ni­val ar­rivals?

The Cen­tral Sta­tis­ti­cal Of­fice mea­sures Car­ni­val ar­rivals us­ing the 19-day pe­ri­od lead­ing up to Car­ni­val Tues­day (in­clu­sive of Car­ni­val Tues­day). For the 2010 Car­ni­val sea­son, T&T ex­pe­ri­enced a five per cent in­crease in vis­i­tor ar­rivals to the des­ti­na­tion.

4. In re­la­tion to Eu­ro­pean ar­rivals on­ly five coun­tries re­port­ed a de­crease in ar­rivals, we are among the five, are these trade shows not pay­ing off?

The agen­cies with re­spon­si­bil­i­ty for mar­ket­ing and pro­mo­tion of the des­ti­na­tion at­tend trade shows and the ben­e­fits are ex­pect­ed to be re­alised with­in a two to three-year pe­ri­od. In March 2019, in­creas­es were seen in the fol­low­ing Eu­ro­pean coun­tries, Italy, Switzer­land, Poland, Aus­tria and Por­tu­gal.

5. The air­lift and room oc­cu­pan­cy was cit­ed in the re­port as con­tribut­ing fac­tors to the de­cline what are you do­ing to im­prove this?

• Im­proved mar­ket­ing of the des­ti­na­tion

• De­vel­op­ment of in­no­v­a­tive pack­ag­ing op­tions for the des­ti­na­tion

• Im­proved tourism prod­uct in­clu­sive of new niche ar­eas

• Col­lab­o­ra­tion with hote­liers to im­prove the qual­i­ty of room of­fer­ings

• Pro­mo­tion of the room up­grade pro­gramme to hote­liers to en­cour­age ac­cess to the pro­gramme

With re­spect of oc­cu­pan­cy, Air B&B is a phe­nom­e­non which is dis­rupt­ing and ad­verse­ly af­fect­ing the tra­di­tion­al ac­com­mo­da­tion providers.

6. Are you con­fi­dent the next half will be bet­ter?

As at May 2019, there was a very small in­crease in air ar­rivals to T&T com­pared to the same pe­ri­od in 2018. Mar­kets which in­creased in April 2019 in­clude USA, Cana­da, Ger­many, South Amer­i­ca, In­dia, Mex­i­co, Brazil, Japan, South Ko­rea, Por­tu­gal, Switzer­land, Nige­ria and Chi­na. If this trend con­tin­ues ar­rivals for 2019 should sur­pass 2018 fig­ures.

In ad­di­tion, T&T will be host­ing Car­ifes­ta in Au­gust 2019 and, to date, 21 coun­tries have reg­is­tered to par­tic­i­pate.

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