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