PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad -- With the annual Carnival celebrations
rocking the streets and villages of Trinidad and Tobago this week,
the dual island nation makes a push for heavy destination promotion
and marketing, according to tourism officials here.
"With the airlift increase in the past year, coupled with a
growth in the U.S. market, a new emphasis on community festivals
and events, a rebranding of our tour product and a mandate to
promote the Trinidad and Tobago brand, we're hopeful that our
tourism industry can come from behind," said Brian Charles, vice
president, marketing for Tourism and Industrial Development Co.,
the national promotion agency for Trinidad and Tobago.
New airlift includes Continental's launch in mid-December of
twice-weekly, year-round service from Newark to Port-of-Spain,
BWIA's service between Washington and Tobago and the connecting
service to Tobago from New York's Kennedy-Trinidad flight.
Charles said that Howard Chin Lee, who was recently appointed
tourism minister to replace Pennelope Beckles, "wants to focus on
what sets us apart from other Caribbean nations, such as our
festivals, music and range of activities from goat races to
culinary competitions and our nature heritage."
Worldwide visitor arrivals in 2003 increased to 400,000, up from
383,000 in 2002. Increases of 8% are being registered this winter
over last, with more than 35% of all visitors coming from the
Charles said that agents account for approximately 60% of that
business. "We're seeing a tourism growth in the U.S. market as
American agents and their clients recognize that Trinidad and
Tobago is not just an oil and energy producer."
Although he admitted that "tourism is a bit behind, we are
confident that we are on the right track now with the new emphasis
on culture, cuisine and celebrations such as Carnival," Charles
said. "We know that our visitors want a bit more than the
traditional sun-and-sand vacation."
Hotel development also is on the move. A Courtyard by Marriott
property will open in Port-of-Spain this summer; a new project is
in the works for Trinidad's north coast, and property renovations
are taking place in Tobago.
The Tobago Hilton, which opened two years ago, is gaining market
share and higher occupancies, Charles said.
Hotel rooms on both islands number approximately 5,000,
according to Charles.
Charles said that cruise traffic "has fallen off a bit" to two
ships per week in the winter season. Port-of-Spain's cruise
terminal can handle up to two mega-class ships at a time.
"We recognize that we need to revamp our cruise product and
offer more and varied tour packages for cruise visitors," he
Also planned are more fam trips for agents "to broaden their
awareness of the destination," the implementation of an agent
specialist program and a more focused development of the scuba,
ecotourism and family markets, according to Charles.
Festivals will continue to play important roles in tourism
marketing. "The larger events will be packaged with hotel and tour
programs," Charles said. "For example, the International Gospel
Festival June 4 to 6 in Trinidad will offer easy-to-book,
commissionable packages." He said that details on the festival will
be released next month.
For information on the destination, visit www.visitTNT.com. The
Web site details attractions, lodging, events and contacts.
To contact reporter Gay Nagle Myers, send e-mail to [email protected].