Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : February 12th 2015 Contents FEBRUARY 2015 • WEEK TWO www.guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
NEWS | BG7
Within T&T s
cited as the
jewel in the
crown. Certainly, in cultural terms, it is central
to Trinbagonian identity.
The parades held on the Monday and Tues-
day before Ash Wednesday, the dancing to
calypso and soca music, the stick-fighting and
limbo, the costumes and competitions are cel-
ebrated across the islands and beyond. That
said, whether the country is making the best
of Carnival from an economic point of view
is open to debate.
Tourism in T&T has basic differences from
the sector in many other Caribbean islands,
which are largely seen as sun, sand and sea
offerings. While Tobago has the beaches and
natural beauty to compete with other islands
on that front, Trinidad is a more complex
attraction. It caters to travellers ranging from
business people to Carnival fans, beach-tourists
to convention-goers, visitors on yachts to eco-
The rich mix offered between the two islands
offer is both an asset and a problem. How
should the country brand and promote itself
to best effect?
Tourism is the top
Tourism s total contribution to the country s
GDP in 2013 was 8.2 per cent, and directly
and indirectly the industry employed 27,500
people (4.5 per cent of total employment).
According to the latest available figures from
the Ministry of Finance and the Economy,
approximately 467,097 tourists visited the
two-island country in 2013, a 7.2 per cent
decrease from the previous year. Tourism is
the top services sector revenue earner in the
There is no precise breakdown of the relative
economic impact of the different types of
tourism, but a number of specialists question
whether the most is being made of Carnival.
At the Trinidad Hotels, Restaurants &
Tourism Association (THRTA) executive direc-
tor Louanna Chai-Alves says business tourism
linked to the oil and gas and financial sector
is the bedrock of the sector.
Yet since around 2007, hotel occupancy
rates have dropped to 50-60 per cent, down
from 70-80 per cent. This is attributed to
expanding capacity (the construction of the
Hyatt Regency, the Carlton Savannah, and the
upgrade of the Hilton Trinidad) coupled with
slow growth in demand (affected by a slower
world economy and the growth of video-con-
ferencing and new media).
"In T&T we need to find new markets out-
side business travel," Chai-Alves told OBG.
Built on a five-day high-season during Car-
nival in the days preceding Ash Wednesday,
many industry participants are calling for
diversification within the tourism sector to
help exploit the potential of the islands.
The problem with Carnival is that interna-
tional tourists (and many expatriate Trinbag-
onians) flock to the islands; but for only a
Many fly in on the Wednesday before Car-
nival and fly out again on the following "cool
down" Ash Wednesday. Sources in the industry
say that might mean full occupancy of around
1,500 hotel rooms for five days at an average
daily spend of US$250 a day.
Visitors will also spend outside the hotel
on food, drink and joining bands and shows.
Good revenue; but only for one week out of
the year s 52. One response could therefore
be to try to lengthen the Carnival period,
attracting international visitors to the whole
range of pre-Carnival fetes and steel pan com-
petitions. This has the potential to develop
and promote a five-or-six week "window"
stretching between the beginning of January
and the end of Carnival.
There is also a debate over whether the
islands should pursue mass or more select
types of tourism. In rough outline, mass
tourism involves large numbers of people
spending modest amounts of money, while
more select or niche tourism involves fewer
people with a higher spend per capita.
Stephen Broadbridge, who runs Caribbean
Discovery Tours, an ecological and cultural
tour agency, argues that T&T should not be
chasing after cruise ships, which bring large
numbers of people ashore for short periods
of high disruption and low per head spending.
Instead he favours smaller groups visiting
the country s tropical rainforests, bird, butterfly
and leatherback turtle sanctuaries, including
world-renowned sites such as the Asa Wright
"We should be using Carnival to promote
tourist packages at other times of the year,"
Broadbridge told OBG. He also suggested mar-
keting packages that combine T&T. According
to Broadbridge Trinidad & Tobago has the
greatest number of bird species per square
mile anywhere in the world, the largest fresh
and salt-water swamps in the Caribbean (Nar-
iva and Caroni), old and diverse forests, and
the largest population of nesting leather back
Lorraine Pouchet at the National Carnival
Commission of T&T told OBG: "It would be
interesting to know how many of the 40,000
to 45,000 who come for Carnival each year
are first-time visitors." She feels many who
come every year are regulars---expatriates and
friends---and that there is a need to develop
a marketing strategy to attract newcomers.
Pouchet warns that T&T has not yet max-
imised the tourism potential of its Carnival,
and might face competition from the many
carnivals elsewhere in the world that could
"jostle for our space."
Lengthening the season beyond the Carnival
period also occupies the thoughts of govern-
Gerald Hadeed, the Minister of Tourism,
told OBG: "We are enhancing community
tourism, where we will highlight our craft,
cuisine and music to showcase our diverse
ethnic culture. Our cultural diversity is a major
advantage over our competitors. This is one
of our strong selling points in achieving an
increase in arrivals."
He noted other marketing tools for the
region such as the Southern Caribbean Cruise
Initiative (SCCI) which is "intended to create
a year-round platform with an itinerary circuit
to T&T, Grenada, St Vincent and the
Grenadines and St Lucia. It will launch T&T
as the primary home port for the SCCI itinerary
circuit, due to its fuel bunkering and room
stock capacity, as well as creating linkages
with other sectors."
The country is not short of pulling power.
The problem is to choose which form of mar-
keting what attractions would produce the
Marco Binenti is the Oxford Business
Group editorial manager for T&T
About Oxford Business Group
Oxford Business Group (OBG) is a global
publishing, research and consultancy firm, which
publishes economic intelligence on the markets
of Latin America, Asia, Middle East and Africa.
Through its range of print and online products,
OBG offers comprehensive and accurate analysis
of macroeconomic and sectoral developments,
including banking, capital markets, insurance,
energy, transport, industry and telecoms. The
Report: T&T 2015 will be produced in partnership
OXFORD BUSINESS GROUP
Gerald Hadeed, Minister of Tourism, with Caroline Nguyen, country director for Oxford
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