Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : February 25th 2016 Contents BG20 COMMENTARY
BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt FEBRUARY 25 • 2016
Afirst step toward rebranding
the city of Port-of-Spain
would be to remind ourselves
of its fascinating history and
derive the inspiration
required to create policy and
a product that narrates an expectation and
then deliver that experience.
Our city is one of the world s most beautiful
port cities, having evolved, like so many others,
from a sleepy seaside settlement into today s
commercial hub. Port-of-Spain s history is
the main reason for its majestic, unique global
appeal where business is done with an energy
and enthusiasm that is uniquely "Trini".
The city s distinct brand is attributable to
the impact of the creative cultural energies of
the diverse people that settled here.
So what is the story of Port-of-Spain?
The city s written history tells us that it
changed hands between the Spanish and the
British causing it to, at one time, have Spanish
laws although governed by the British. Both
seats of those past colonial governments are
still visible today as tangible links to the past.
The restored Cabildo building where the Span-
ish landowners regularly met to make decisions
can be found on Sackville Street whilst the
Red House (under restoration) built to house
our Westminster-style Parliament sits on the
western end of Woodford Square.
On its boundary, among the hills of Laven-
tille, the steelpan was born, and out of the
womb of Belmont the national festival of Car-
nival burgeoned. It is within these spaces that
the city s pulsating heartbeat of creative energy
and the soul of its individuality are housed.
Here only can be found the stories of the steel
pan, the only musical instrument invented in
the 21st century, its players and their pan yards.
Here lives the legacy of the mas makers, their
costumes and calypso music. It has been, and
is, home to poets, writers, performers, aca-
demics and sporting heroes.
The story of religious tolerance and intol-
erance speaks to the prevalence of European,
African and East Indian traditions amidst a
city full of their spiritual spaces: churches,
temples mosques and compounds.
The diversity of the city s creative energy
has historically impacted on its architecture,
its design and layout, its food, its fashion, its
many genres of entertainment and its people.
The aesthetic attractiveness of the city been
officially recognised, internationally and locally.
As a destination, there are a number of clearly
defined historic districts and green spaces that
can be found nowhere else in the world. In
fact, Port-of-Spain has more parks and green
spaces than most cities.
Both Woodford Square and the Queen s
Park Savannah are surrounded by such a den-
sity of gentrified century-old beautiful historic
buildings that the Magnificent Seven and the
Red House were declared OAS world monu-
ments just over a decade ago, although they
were only locally listed as historic sites two
years ago. Woodford Square and environs was
declared a Heritage District in December, 2014,
All of the Queen s Park Savannah and Bel-
mont---including the Rada Community---are
worthy of similar status to ensure their value
is understood, preserved and appreciated.
The city s military history is embodied in
its three forts: Fort San Andres, Fort Picton
and Fort George. All have their original gunnery
still in place, a testament to the protection
they gave to city from invasion at a time when
high-masted sailing ships dotted the Gulf of
Paria instead of barges, container vessels and
A little known story is the significance of
Churruca s observatory at the top of Obser-
vatory Lane in Laventille. It is from this point
that the western hemisphere was plotted by
longitude and latitude co-ordinates to the "old
world" in the 17th century.
The city s other advantage is its practicality
for ease of movement. The grid-like planning
of its streets makes it easy to maneuver. The
very names tell of a bygone era of kings, queens
and dukes that add a flavour of romanticism
and nostalgia, the labour movement that
defined our growth as a nation eg Cipriani
Boulevard and 21st century magic of cricketing
hero Brian Lara with the promenade named
The importance of preserving these tangible
links to our past cannot be emphasised enough
since they set the stage for Port-of-Spain s
wealth of culture.
Cliff Hamilton, assistant professor of hos-
pitality and tourism management at the Uni-
versity of the Southern Caribbean in his paper
entitled, "Tourism as a Major Pillar in The
Diversification of T&T s Economy" writes
about city rebranding as a series of specific
Hamilton speaks of deciding on the desti-
nation brand and then managing it well so it
delivers to visitors the experiences they were
told to expect. He also sternly cautions that
it is a process and there can be no short cuts
in order to achieve the required image overhaul
and bring the desired prosperity; developing
a city brand takes time, money and emotional
commitment, requiring genuine statesmanship
and stewardship on the part of city leader-
The end result of properly prioritised efforts
is the creation of a city brand that is integral
to the country s economic development strat-
egy because people visit cities to rediscover
history and experience culture.
Naturally, everything must be done in tan-
dem with spatial master planning, investment
in people development and financial invest-
ment in tourism infrastructure. The interna-
tional examples are there for us to compare.
The fact that the city of London earns billions
of pounds sterling each year from the visits
to their historic sites, despite the state of the
global economy, is encouragement enough to
ensure this becomes a reality in T&T.
There will be tremendous sustainable
employment generated by a specialist con-
struction industry manned by trained artisans
who will be busily restoring and maintaining
the historic sites as part of our proud city
brand. The spin off businesses of tour guides,
shops, souvenirs etc, is also priceless.
Decision makers and stakeholders must
come together and decide on their destination
brand for Port-of-Spain. It could well be that
we are already the "Diversity Centre of the
World where for every business experience
there is an equally enjoyable cultural phenom-
Within our capital city we have a seamless
interaction and intermingling of all of the
world s major races and cultures who, with
second and third generation participation, are
distinctly invested in this place they call home:
"Trinbagonian" and "Trini to the bone".
Most recently, identified as the world s hap-
piest people with one of the sexiest accents,
it is no secret our local recipes with home-
grown ingredients are a favourite with every
The intermingling of races is appreciated
globally, evidenced by our capturing both the
Miss Universe and Miss World titles. Our Car-
nival is internationally acclaimed as a partygoers
paradise, so much so an Australian travel firm
recently advertised that if someone had recently
had a bad life experience they should book
their travel to visit T&T for Carnival 2016 and
get cheered up.
With falling oil and gas prices, now is the
time to look past our obstacles and identify
our strengths. To be less about talk and more
about systematic action; less about criticism
and more about restoration. We must remind
ourselves of our history, restore our buildings
and heal the soul of the city, as it is the only
way forward. It is in our heritage that we
derive the most pride and only when we under-
stand and appreciate what we come from can
we go forward.
The T&T Chamber thanks Michele D Celes-
tine for her contribution of this article.
T&T Chamber of
Industry and Commerce
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