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The Trinidad & Tobago Business Guide (TTBG, 2009-10)

direct air service out

direct air service out of appropriate gateways along the eastern seaboard, particularly New York. Connections over Piarco are simply not a practical option. New hotels would not come at the expense of the existing lodging sector, although many properties desperately need to clean up their act to become competitive. Rather, they would enhance it by opening up the destination to international tourism flows that would otherwise never come near Tobago, and in the process improve the island’s market credibility. There are those who take the view that what happens in Tobago has little relevance for Trinidad, except in the sense that Tobago is a holiday destination for Trinidadians. This is extremely short-sighted. As Port of Spain develops into a conference destination, Tobago, as a pre- and post-convention option, becomes a major conference inducement for meeting planners. The crime situation that continues to impact Trinidad so horrendously has not spared Tobago, and while the incidents that have occurred are dwarfed by the carnage in Trinidad’s major urban centres, it is an unfortunate fact of tourism life that such things are not supposed to happen at all in the idyllic resort environments of the Caribbean. As a consequence, Tobago has joined a number of other Caribbean Islands in being badly impacted by travel advisories coming out of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the US State Department and the Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Conclusion The future of tourism in Trinidad and Tobago is a classic case of the glass being half empty or half full, depending on your point of view. The “half empty” adherents point out that nothing has really changed: • There is no clearly stated, unequivocal political commitment to tourism • The THA throws up more road blocks to the industry’s development than it provides in facilitation • The sector is fragmented and lacks coordinated direction • There is no clearly stated strategic plan for tourism development on either island, and as a consequence the various government entities and stakeholders are all going in different directions at the same time • The crime situation is horrendous and getting worse • The global economic picture is deteriorating; a full-blown depression would make international travel all but impossible • Air fares are high and escalating while airlift out of source markets is contracting. The “half full” adherents, on the other hand, take the view that we have come a very long way since the negative years of the sixties and seventies: • We now have a tourism-specific ministry, with its own dedicated state agency for implementation • Cabinet is set, for the first time, to approve a national tourism policy • With the current volatility in the price of oil and gas, which are already recognised as depleting resources, there is an ever increasing need for economic diversification, and tourism is a prime candidate to fill that gap • The industry-owned and -operated Trinidad and Tobago Hotel Training Institute (TTHTI) has the proven capability to train all staff positions to meet the needs of a thriving industry • Tourism offers great employment opportunities, and careers in tourism are now seen to be well-paying with good upward mobility • Trinidad has the capital resources to fund industry expansion, on an as-needed basis, with the addition of new hotels and attractions • With Caribbean Airlines, Trinidad has the capability to develop market access if it chooses to make use of it • The global recession will not last long and tourism will soon come bouncing back. The “half full” guys are probably nearer the mark. It all depends, as it always has, on political will. If the government will only grasp the political nettle, and provide a clear, properly funded strategic plan to complement its new tourism policy, and if the Tobago House of Assembly will only come down off the fence and make a clear commitment to the development of an internationally sustainable tourism product, there is absolutely no doubt that Trinidad and Tobago could become a very significant player on the world tourism stage. Fat chance, the “half empty” guys say. Your call. John Bell is a former director general and CEO of the Caribbean Hotel Association and a former president of the Trinidad and Tobago Hotels and Tourism Association (This page) St Andrew’s Golf Course, Moka 58 TTBG 09/10

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