Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : February 23rd 2017 Contents FEBRUARY 23 • 2017 guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
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There has been much talk re-
cently about the decline of
tourist arrivals into T&T, with
the resulting fall off in revenue
to the industry.
With good reason it has
been suggested that this is as a direct con-
sequence of the government's demonstrable
failure to promote T&T as a credible tourism
Arrival numbers have long been the preferred
yardstick by which to judge the success of any
tourism marketing programme. Actually, the
number of visitors to a destination should
never be the prime criteria. The revenue they
generate is much more important.
Arrivals to T&T, in particular, are not ho-
mogeneous. They are composed of several
different types of visitors, each with a quite
different spending profile:
• Delegates attending meetings, incentives,
conferences, and events (MICE)
• Visitors that stay with friends and rela-
• Leisure travellers
Of these businessmen are usually the best
spenders since, for the most part, they travel
on expense accounts, and therefore tend to
spend more freely. In fact, they represent a
much underutilised tourism potential since,
as they are already here, are prime prospects
to extend their stay for some R&R, thus be-
coming leisure tourists. Sadly, there are very
few attempts made to encourage them to do so.
MICE delegates come next as a substantial
portion of their expenses is already packaged
into their event registration fees, often paid for
by their employers, and conference meals and
entertainment can often be quite elaborate.
They are also good prospects for an extended
VFR arrivals, those that come to stay with
friends and family, are more difficult to meas-
ure. Certainly they bring money with them,
but it is not spent in the conventional sense for
hotel accommodation, tours and dining out,
but rather in the form of contributions to the
families with which they stay.
Leisure travellers are the real tourists. They
can be induced to visit by well-conceived mar-
keting and promotion programmes, with their
expenditure determined by the quality of ac-
commodation in which they chose to stay.
According to Brian Frontin, CEO of the Trin-
idad Hotels Restaurants and Tourism Associ-
ation (THRTA), CTO statistics show that T&T
had 408,782 visitor arrivals in 2016, a decline
of seven per cent over 2015. Of greater concern
is the consequent eight per cent drop in hotel
occupancy, and nine per cent fall in earnings.
Obviously, this will have had a knock-on effect
in room tax collected.
Of these 408,782 arriving visitors some
19,000 went to Tobago, down from 88,000
in 2005. The remainder came to Trinidad.
The reduction of marketing funds allocated
to the TDC from $61.6m in 2013/2014 to $29m
in 2014/2015 and now $19m in 2015/2016,
has not only been seriously damaging to the
tourism industry, but will similarly have had
a negative impact on the treasury, and will
continue to do so while this policy of tourism
From this it can be seen that there is an obvi-
ous correlation between tourism promotional
expenditure, tourism arrivals, the revenue they
generate, and the collection of hotel room tax
back to the treasury.
We can take it that those going to Tobago
were genuine leisure travellers, tourists in the
conventional sense of the word. They came on
packages and stayed in hotels, guest houses, or
rented villas, and were influenced by destina-
tion marketing programmes, or in our case the
lack of them. They took tours, ate in restaurants
and explored the island.
Those that stayed in Trinidad were predom-
inantly businessmen, or VFR arrivals.
It is almost impossible to do anything to mo-
tivate business travellers. They either have a
professional reason to come here, or they don't.
Similarly, those visiting friends and relatives
are driven by personal or familial reasons that
are difficult to influence.
MICE delegates will certainly have been
attracted by marketing programs carried out
by their host hotels, and supported by desti-
nation promotion. That being said the Con-
vention and Visitors Bureau, embodied within
the TDC, is effectively without funding, and
their marketing impact has consequently been
minimal, with the promotional burden falling
to the hotels.
It follows, therefore, that of all the visitors
to the country in 2016, very few of them came
as a result of any promotion undertaken by the
Ministry of Tourism and the TDC, hence the
decline in numbers
It also follows that the continuing decline of
visitor arrivals is the direct result of the almost
total absence of any destination promotion,
resulting in a significant loss of revenue to both
the industry and the treasury.
It should also be noted that the room tax
collected last year from the larger Trinidad
hotels alone, as measured by Smith Travel
Research STR, is more than three times the
total marketing budget allocated to TDC.
Surely in the economic downturn that we are
experiencing, this is self-defeating economics.
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