Tourism can save T&T’s economy - analyst

As T&T record­ed sharp de­clines in tourist ar­rivals and the third weak­est tourism record in the Caribbean for 2019, se­nior tourism an­a­lyst Kevon Wil­son is call­ing on the Gov­ern­ment to pay more fo­cus to the sec­tor say­ing it has the po­ten­tial to save T&T’s floun­der­ing econ­o­my.

Speak­ing to Guardian Me­dia dur­ing a me­dia fa­mil­iari­sa­tion tour of Do­mini­ca, Wil­son, said there were many tourist at­trac­tions in T&T which were un­der­de­vel­oped.

“Tourism has nev­er been giv­en the fo­cus it de­serves,” Wil­son said, adding that a sus­tain­able tourism plan was de­vel­oped since 2010 but was nev­er im­ple­ment­ed.

“It is a pol­i­cy that has not been ful­ly im­ple­ment­ed or ac­tioned. It is still valid now more than ever and fo­cus­es on the sus­tain­able as­pects of tourism de­vel­op­ment, in­clud­ing the com­mu­ni­ties and peo­ple of T&T,” he added.

Wil­son who works as a se­nior an­a­lyst with Tourism In­tel­li­gence In­ter­na­tion­al, a high­ly re­spect­ed trav­el and tourism con­sul­tan­cy serv­ing gov­ern­ment and pri­vate sec­tor clients in both es­tab­lished and emerg­ing tourism des­ti­na­tions around the world, said he was dis­ap­point­ed with the re­port­ed de­clines in T&T’s tourism sec­tor.

Hav­ing worked in sev­er­al con­ti­nents in­clud­ing in the Mid­dle East, Eu­rope and Asia as well as the Caribbean, Wil­son said, “It is sad that in Trinidad there is a lack of im­ple­men­ta­tion of our tourism pol­i­cy. The prob­lem, in gen­er­al, is that tourism has nev­er been giv­en the pri­or­i­ty it de­serves be­cause there is a per­cep­tion that we don’t need tourism when in fact we re­al­ly do.”

He added, “The oil mon­ey has been great and has worked for us but the world is chang­ing and oil prices will nev­er go back to the way it was be­fore. There is a glut of oil in the mar­ket and it will nev­er reach the lev­els it was be­fore.”

He said coun­tries like Dubai was swim­ming in oil mon­ey yet it had uti­lized its earn­ings to boost its tourism in­dus­try.

“They shift­ed their fo­cus on tourism and now it is a grow­ing and thriv­ing sec­tor. Tourism more than any oth­er sec­tor can ac­ti­vate oth­er sec­tors of the econ­o­my,” he added. He not­ed that re­cent tourism ini­tia­tives in the Caribbean were bear­ing fruit.

“In Do­mini­ca, for ex­am­ple, we have helped to craft a tourism mas­ter plan and for­mu­late a strat­e­gy for Dis­cov­er Do­mini­ca Au­thor­i­ty. That project start­ed in De­cem­ber,” he ex­plained.

Wil­son said T&T had ex­pan­sive tourism po­ten­tial.

“How­ev­er we can­not use old mod­els for new tourism. How­ev­er all is not lost be­cause T&T can look at the mis­takes made in mass tourism by oth­er coun­tries and learn from those mis­takes by im­ple­ment­ing sus­tain­able re­spon­si­ble tourism that im­pacts on the lives of or­di­nary peo­ple,” he said.

He added that tourism can boost agri­cul­ture as well as the abun­dant cre­ative tal­ent of the peo­ple of T&T.

“Pan should nev­er be a side­line hob­by. T&T’s pop­u­la­tion of 1.3 mil­lion is a tiny mar­ket so we have to cater to in­ter­na­tion­al tourists. Ja­maica is get­ting 5 mil­lion vis­its to their coun­try. T&T can tap in­to new mar­kets and un­til we can re­al­ly see the po­ten­tial of tourism we will nev­er reach any­where,” Wil­son added.

He not­ed that Caribbean tourism has been grow­ing by leaps and bounds.

“We have had over 32 mil­lion vis­i­tors to Caribbean shores and T&T is re­ceiv­ing less than one per cent of that. In 2017, Tourism In­tel­li­gence In­ter­na­tion­al worked with Cari­com to de­vel­op a re­gion­al tourism strat­e­gy in 230 dif­fer­ent ar­eas of de­vel­op­ment for mar­ket­ing tourism po­ten­tial. We have de­vel­oped a com­pre­hen­sive strat­e­gy to map out growth and de­vel­op­ment. I don’t know if T&T of­fi­cials even read that doc­u­ment. I don’t know what we are re­al­ly wait­ing on,” he added.

Caribbean Tourism grows by T&T’s tourism de­clines

The lat­est re­port re­leased by the Caribbean Tourism Or­gan­i­sa­tion (CTO) stat­ed that 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. The re­port states that 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 re­leased in June stat­ed that the Caribbean re­gion was 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.

Re­spond­ing to the re­port, CEO of The Trinidad Ho­tels, Restau­rants & Tourism As­so­ci­a­tion (THRTA), Bri­an Fron­tin said T&T as a mar­ket had lost over 60,000 tourists from 2015 to present.

He not­ed 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.”

- by Radhica De Silva