Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 2nd 2015 Contents JULY 2 • 2015 www.guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
COVER STORY | BG5
He also said that there has not been enough planning in developing the tourism
industry as a product as there is a tendency to run the industry by "vaps."
"I am just using this as an example. You cannot be a practitioner in tourism
and wake up tomorrow morning and the minister says we are going into India.
I do not have any data or details showing that there is a market there. Tour
operators do not have it, tour guides do not have it."
Welch said that ministers have been dictating the direction industries take
and the private sector must begin to chart its own course.
"A good example is when the Prime Minister went to China to set up the
embassy there. A whole trade team was taken to China. I am not saying China
is not a good market. What I am saying is that this cannot be driven by the
hunch of a prime minister or a hunch of a minister of trade. We in the different
industries must begin to dictate where we go. In the past we have just been
sitting back every time a minister is changed and it is not only in tourism the
direction of the industry tends to change."
At the same time, he said the private sector cannot do it alone as even they
too have limited resources.
"A stakeholder body is not a financial entity but it just operates on the little
money it gets from subscriptions and things like that. We cannot make a difference
on our own. We must partner with government institutions. It must be an open
and honest partnership."
Arrivals and occupancy
He said the tourist arrivals are not sufficient for the hotel operators in T&T.
"On average, most of the properties would do less that 60 per cent occupancy
if you look at an average year round. I am very conservative with this number
as it could be less. The challenge is having products to attract like experiences
"Every year thousands of people are brought for Carnival. As of now, I cannot
tell these foreigners any prices for next year as no one has information yet and
we are already in June. If we are talking about the greatest show on earth, we
are supposed to be using the greatest marketing on earth."
He spoke about raising standards among local hotels.
"The Bureau of Standards with the Tourism Development Company (TDC)
have come up with the T&T Industry Certification (TTTIC) programme. They
look at best practices and setting standards and certify your property. There is
no way to force hotels to adopt these standards though. In other countries hotels
are forced to adopt these standards. In other countries they even have standards
where you can not operate in the industry if you are not certified."
Speaking about arrival statistics, he said occupancy rates and arrivals are cycli-
"At this point we are probably a couple percentage above what happened last
year. But if you look at the statistics over a long period of time you could say
the arrival statistics are stagnant. It has always been just over 400,000 arrivals
a year. We have had this for the last ten years. There have never been significant
jumps because the product we think we have---apart from bad planning---is not
As an example, he said, his company takes tourists to the Dimanche Gras and
after 20 minutes many leave because they are bored.
He suggested streamlining Carnival activities that would draw tourists.
"When they read about it online it looks exciting but they are tortured when
they actually experience the show as they listen to calypsoes which are the
political commentaries of T&T. The language is also foreign to them."
He said one of the trends in tourism these days is tourists trying the local
foods of the countries they go to.
"Because of the diversity of the country, T&T has the best local foods in the
region. Our street foods rival anything, anywhere in the world but we do not
have an appreciation for it. Many of our street vendors will tell you they are
not into tourism. Ask Richard s Bake and Shark and he will say he is not in the
tourism industry. But he sells thousands of bake and sharks everyday."
Welch said, at the moment, there is no authority that deals with food and
health standards up to international standards.
"Right now we have the Ministry of Health issuing food badges. Right now,
the T&T Hospitality and Tourism Institute is working on a project and is working
on certification project for street food vendors. It would not be as simple as
doing an interview in an office for the current food badge.
"This certification would require three hours a day for at least three days,
where people get proper training around food handling. The idea is a certified
tourism food handler."
must take lead
president of the Trinidad Hotels Restaurants and Tourism Association
PHOTO: ANDRE ALEXANDER
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