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T&T must overcome challenges to tourism industry

Trinidad Express / I refer to John Bell’s Express article “The sad state of Tobago’s tourism”, published on November 23 (Page 13). Trinidad and Tobago, as tourist destinations go, is situated at the bottom of things, but we are of the view that we too have much to sell to potential tourists in possession of hard currencies. Maybe so. Consequently, some, having sight of experiences at world tourism marketplaces, are blasted vex that Trinidad and Tobago is not repeatedly throwing a lot more money at potential tourist markets and perhaps mounting more spectacular promotions to bring in the elusive critical mass of visitors to produce sustainable jobs and close deficits on depleting foreign exchange. The facts are that much of the Caribbean region, in large measure, depends on US, Canadian and UK tourist arrivals. According to the most recent UK government travel advisory website, over 30,000 British nationals visit Trinidad and Tobago every year. By comparison, in 2014, 186,823 British nationals visited Barbados; 73,960 visited St Lucia, and approximately 200,000 visited Jamaica in 2015. Antigua and Barbuda’s annual share of the UK nationals is 64,000. Most visits are described as trouble-free with low threats of terrorism with varying incidents of crime involving armed robbery and sexual assault, to high incidents of crime and violence including murder in the city of Kingston, unrelated to the tourist populations. While no figures were produced for visits to Cuba, UK travel advised their nationals that crime levels for Cuba are low, mainly in the form of opportunistic theft, and that there is a low threat from terrorism. In comparison, the UK government travel advisory for Trinidad and Tobago reads like a rap sheet. It reports that in 2015 and 2016, there have been two murders of British citizens, one in Tobago and the other in Trinidad. The advice is that there is a general threat from terrorism and that there are high levels of violent crime especially in parts of Port of Spain, including murder, robbery, and other crimes targeting tourists. The UK government also advised that there is a risk of mosquito-borne illnesses in Trinidad and Tobago from Dengue and Chikungunya fever, and a risk of zika virus transmission. Trinidad and Tobago is the only country of the group quoted above where attacks on British tourists have been recorded by the UK government. Under circumstances of a raised level of threat from terrorism, crimes targeting British visitors, and the presence of a series of mosquito-born illnesses, it is downright illogical and nonsensical to lay a claim at the feet of government for more funding and spectacular promotions, and a reorganisation of overlapping roles to entice tourists to come and spend their vacation funds in Trinidad and Tobago, without first conceiving a vision in reawakening the resilience of the people of Trinidad and Tobago and a national promotional strategy, that must begin at home, out of which future roles of relevant tourism departments may be determined. In the absence of a critical mass of talented people to make it happen, we’d just be spinning top in mud. Kathleen Pinder via e-mail

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