PHOTO: Shamfa Cudjoe, Trinidad & Tobago’s tourism minister. (photo by Brian Major)
Dual-island Caribbean nation Trinidad and Tobago will dissolve its Tourism Development Company (TDC), replacing the cooperative agency with separate organizations.
One will now have responsibility for Trinidad and the other for the smaller island of Tobago, the country’s tourism minister said earlier this month.
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The dual government will also launch a regulatory authority to “manage and monitor” tourism standards, said Trinidad & Tobago’s tourism minister Shamfa Cudjoe in a local press briefing that followed a cabinet meeting at Tobago’s Magdalena Grand Beach Resort.
Dr. Keith Rowley, Trinidad & Tobago’s prime minister, said last year the TDC was under review, Cudjoe noted. The government’s decision to shutter the agency was made following that review, which assessed the agency’s structure and management. Cudjoe said the agency will not be closed immediately, although local press reports say some workers have already been dismissed.
Cudjoe said Trinidad & Tobago is “engaging countries that have functioning regulatory authorities, such as the Bahamas and Barbados,” to provide assistance in creating the new agencies. She had previously described TDC as a “runaway horse” and an example of “the tail wagging the dog.”
Indeed, Trinidad & Tobago’s move follows a 2015 decision by the Barbados government to replace its Barbados Tourism Authority with Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (BTMI) and Barbados Tourism Product Authority (BTPA).
BTMI is tasked with marketing the country while BTPA focuses on development of Barbados tourism attractions and infrastructure.
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Cudjoe said Trinidad & Tobago must implement mandatory tourism standards as the segment’s importance to the nation’s economy grows. The traditionally oil-reliant nation is increasingly turning to tourism to blunt a local recession tied to the global downturn in commodity prices.
“Right now the standards program in Trinidad and Tobago is voluntary and if we ought to compete with the rest of the region we have to ensure that we meet the necessary standards,” she said in a Trinidad and Tobago Guardian report. “So I think the regulatory authority would go a long way.”
The Guardian report cites Tobago hoteliers recently expressing concern regarding “the lack of marketing and declines in tourist arrivals.”
One Tobago legislator said “everything relating to tourism takes too long including approvals for projects and marketing of the island." And while Caribbean tourism is growing, the legislator also lamented that, “[Tobago] declined from 90,000 visitors in 2008 to 18,000 last year, that is unacceptable.”
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Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) data reports Trinidad & Tobago hosted a combined 408,782 land-based visitors during 2016, a 7.0 percent decline from 2015. The dual-island nation hosted 82,698 cruise ship visitors in 2016, a 4.1 percent year-over-year increase.
Trinidad’s Carnival celebration—widely considered the Caribbean’s best—continues as a popular event, said Cudjoe. The country recorded a 10 percent increase in Carnival-period arrivals with 46,663.
She said 50 percent of the Carnival visitors were from the United States, and 31 percent came from Canada.