The Future of Tourism in Trinidad & Tobago

Like most other Caribbean countries, tourism is quite valuable to Trinidad and Tobago, being an industry that employs around 16.7% of the population (according to the World Travel and Tourism Council). So, as you may imagine, the Travel & Tourism to Trinidad and Tobago is an indisputably major industry in the twin island republic.

Tourism affects the livelihood of most people in Trinidad and Tobago. The benefits range from the economic activities of farmers, fishermen, cooks, shopkeepers, bartenders and tour guides to the activities of hotels, banks, and resorts as well as carnival bands, entertainers, immigration, etc.

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Simply, tourism literally impacts every job directly or indirectly, creating an enormous value chain.  For specialist events, sports, and weddings the value chain is even greater. It is clear that the tourism industry is far-reaching and is indeed everyone’s business.

The State of the T&T Tourism Industry
Trinidad and Tobago is a diverse, multicultural country where just about everything is celebrated. Their world-famous Carnival is the highlight for many, but there are also other events going on all year long as well as pristine beaches and vibrant cities.

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Though tourism provides a sizeable chunk of T&T’s employment, the industry is not as developed as that of its counterparts such as in Jamaica, Barbados or The Bahamas.   This, of course does not mean that T&T’s infrastructure is underdeveloped or that tourists are underserved. In fact, most of the tourist accommodation establishments in Trinidad and Tobago are locally owned, allowing locals to meaningfully benefit from the sector. However, the industry’s potential is a long way from being fully tapped.

The underserved nature of the industry was reported after a comprehensive analysis done by WTTC in 2009, as a follow-up to research conducted in 2005. The report had the aim of quantifying the economic contribution of Travel & Tourism to the islands of Trinidad & Tobago as a whole.

As far as tourism is concerned, Tobago has seen better days, however. For the first time in six years, international tourist arrivals have increased in Tobago. This has been confirmed by the Secretary for Tourism and Transport Oswald Williams, who in an interview with the Business Guardian, said unless there was catastrophic fallout of arrivals in December, 2012 would see an increase in international arrivals.

The Way Forward
The T&T tourism Industry now demands more meaningful involvement and more responsible and sustainable tourism practices. T&T needs to build local capacity, by ensuring participation by all major tourism institutions and local specialists from the Travel & Tourism industry.

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What Will Further Tourism Development Bring?
Why should this industry be developed? According to the Ministry of Tourism there are lots of advantages in developing tourism. Back on May 25th and 26th 2009, the Ministry of Tourism hosted national public consultations on a tourism policy for Trinidad and Tobago.

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The tourism sector can become as significant to the T&T economy as the oil and manufacturing sectors are. However, It will require the promotion of more responsible and sustainable tourism practices. Someday tourism may provide massive entrepreneurial opportunities for small operators, foster balanced development, empower rural communities, youth and women. Moreover, a strong tourism sector will further dynamise other sectors of the economy, particularly the agriculture sector.

Additionally, tourism development will benefit all the people of Trinidad and Tobago by providing foreign revenue which will boost the standard of living of all nationals. Moreover, tourism will be used as a tool for social development by potentially eradicating poverty or at least decrease the high unemployment rates especially in these hard economic times. But most importantly, tourism can be used as a mainstream sector to diversify the economy.

All in all, both government and industry will have to overcome a number of challenges to ensure that maximum benefits to the economy and society are achieved in a way that is viable and sustainable in the long term.

By: Norvan Martin

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