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Thursday, March 22, 2018

T&T’s National Tourism Master Plan and National Tourism Policy are being revised in an effort increase the global competitiveness of Destination T&T.

The Government has issued a request for proposals (RFP) locally and internationally, citing challenges which have affected the performance of the sector, including inadequate investment, poor or failing infrastructure, insufficient and poor marketing strategies, ineffective promotion of the destination and absence.

Ministry of Tourism officials, in confirming the planned revisions, said a consultant is being sought to develop a work plan which clearly outlines strategies, tasks, resources, responsibilities, duration and timelines, including delivery of reports and the final National Tourism Plan.

“The work plan must be consistent with the technical approach and methodology,” the ministry said in a statement,

“In recent times there has been a proliferation in the use of social media and new information technology platforms, new models of business operations have developed, new demands and requirements from millennial(s) and seamless movement of people and information across global borders.”

The consultancy will comprise of two parts: revision of the National Tourism Policy, which should not exceed 120 calendar days, and development of the Tourism Master Plan, which should not exceed 180 calendar days.

According to the Ministry, the consultant should have intimate knowledge of the global economy, international tourism business development skills, as well as the ability to recommend a range of digital tools and associated marketing channels.

“The consultant will collaborate with the Ministry of Tourism, the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) and their implementation agencies, all other relevant ministries and agencies, as well as other key stakeholders within the tourism sector as identified by the ministry.”

Industry changing rapidly

The prospects of a new Tourism Master Plan are being viewed with caution by some local experts. Tourism Intelligence International managing director Dr Auliana Poon said more focus should be placed on the fact that industry is changing rapidly and radically.

“Today’s travellers are more experienced, more knowledgeable, more demanding, more conscious and more caring about the destinations that they visit and interact with. Travellers today have been there and done that. They cannot be fooled,” she said.

“Honesty will always be the best policy, so if there is crime, or the ferry service not working, the swimming pool is not in operation, or sewage overflowing in your streets, you need to say so.”

Poon said given the changes in T&T’s external environment it is necessary to take a step back to review and to assess the strategic direction in which the country wants to go.

“Do we have what it takes to succeed?

“Are the plans and targets still relevant?

Cars and ferries require service and maintenance. So do plans and policies,” she said.

Poon said it is important for stakeholders to agree on plans and strategies because often, “resources are allocated based on who can shout the loudest, rather than where they generate the most returns on investment.”

Fixing the crime should be a top priority, as well as fixing the environment.

“We need to wake up! I overnighted in Barbados en route to Guyana, and I was horrified to learn that raw sewage has been flowing into the streets of the south coast and endangering residents and tourists alike.

“I am personally afraid to go into the sea in Barbados. It shows how bad planning and poor maintenance can destroy the white, calm and pristine sun, sand and sea that Barbados is so famous for,” she said. 

Poon said it is important to build partnerships for success and sustainability. Working together to build resilience and to invent, orchestrate and deliver exceptional experience is needed so visitors will want to return to the destination.

She suggested a whole “new tourism” that is sustainable, flexible, segmented, locally-directed and diagonally-integrated.

“Tourism has an incredible value chain and creates many jobs we love—from accountants, designers, engineers, marketeers and IT experts to photographers, wedding planners, drivers, pilots, museum curators, play makers and much, much more.

“It is also the goods and services that T&T supplies to other industries that enrich us. For example, in Jamaica I was pleasantly surprised to open the hotel mini bar and see Carib beer on offer.

“Similarly many of T&T’s consulting services, engineering, road works, hotel construction support the region’s tourism industry. Let’s understand better and fully exploit the entire value chain of the travel and tourism sector.”

Destination marketing needed

Chris James, president of the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association, who was involved in consultations for a Tourism Master Plan in 1995 said, at that time, there was a lot of discussion about the lack of a policy framework. He hopes policy guidelines are in place this time.

He said that the plan was an excellent document, but the majority of its recommendations were not implemented.

“The low arrival figures in Trinidad and in Tobago, are mainly due to the lack of destination marketing,” James said.

“We are selling on price not demand, and we have no demand because we are unknown in the international market place. Tourism is a very dynamic industry and you have to be present in the market continually to keep up with the competition.

“The fact that we have not replaced our overseas representation in many of our originating markets for over a year now has contributed to the lack of market intelligence in those markets and our ability to respond and gain market share.”

James agreed that tourism has to be a collaboration.

He explained: “Investors, whether local or foreign, have a legitimate expectation that Government will provide transport/airlift and destination marketing. The industry does its marketing either directly through media print or online and also through its commissions paid to tour operators.

“T&T is doing very badly compared to a booming region, especially over the last two years. It has to be time to stop the decline. Tourism can be a major contributor to the economy of T&T. It can create all sorts of jobs and opportunities.”


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