Domestic bliss: A strong local tourism market helps reduce vulnerability to fluctuations in international arrivals


With volatility in international arrivals continuing in 2016, the domestic market is increasingly viewed as a critical component of Trinidad and Tobago’s tourism industry. In recent years the domestic market has played an important stabilising role for the country’s tourism industry, particularly in Tobago, where a constant flow of tourists from Trinidad has helped to offset the effects of declining international arrivals.

According to a study by the Tourism Development Company (TDC), the number and duration of domestic trips are on the rise. Domestic overnight trips increased by 6% from 2013 to 2015, reaching 278,846, while average trip duration rose by 13% to 5.25 nights. The industry generated an estimated TT$862m ($129m) in 2015, with an estimated 558,574 domestic tourists spending on average TT$294 ($44) per day. Accommodation, food and beverages, and transportation accounted for 87% of domestic tourism expenditure, with the remainder spent on tour packages, reservations, and equipment and facilities rental, according to the TDC. Beach and river activities are among the top reasons for domestic travel, accounting for 35% of overnight trips in 2015.

Inter-Island Flow

Tobago remains a popular domestic holiday spot for Trinidadians. Connected by a 25-minute flight or a two-and-a-half-hour ferry service, Tobago offers an attractive getaway for Trinidadians looking for holidays close to home. According to the TDC, an estimated 382,761 residents of Trinidad visited Tobago in 2015. Accounting for over TT$500m ($75m) of domestic tourism expenditure in 2015, Trinidadians visiting Tobago help fuel demand for tourism services and accommodation on the sister isle.

Meanwhile, Tobagonians made an estimated 123,619 trips to Trinidad in the same year, spending TT$250m ($37m). In Trinidad the local market helps sustain the hotel industry, particularly at weekends, when business tourism – one of Trinidad’s most important visitor categories – tends to dip. Hotels in Trinidad often offer discounted rates for local residents at weekends. (

Stay To Get Away

Recognising the untapped potential of the domestic market, the TDC relaunched its “Stay to Get Away” campaign in July 2016 as part of an effort to spur growth in the segment. The campaign promotes hotel deals and activities for locals through discounts. A collaborative effort between the public and private sectors, the initiative brought together stakeholders including the T&T Tourist Transport Service Association, the National Trust, Small Tourism Accommodation Owners of T&T and the Public Transport Service Corporation.

At the launch of the campaign, Shamfa Cudjoe, T&T’s minister of tourism, said that the initiative would encourage locals and residents to experience T&T’s tourism product in new and exciting ways, while stimulating economic activity during slow periods. “The domestic tourism industry is poised to become one of the fastest-growing sectors in the country, and one that is sure to benefit from the economic downturn as families opt for holidays closer to home,” Cudjoe said. As well as increasing awareness of the domestic product, the campaign is expected to provide marketing exposure to service providers and encourage local tourism stakeholders to develop domestic tourism programmes.

Catering To Locals

Tourism operators are also placing increased emphasis on the domestic market, with more offers catering to locals. The T&T Incoming Tour Operators Association (TTITOA) runs an “Experience T&T” initiative, a campaign designed to raise awareness about the domestic tourism product, and to provide locals with affordable experiences. Initially introduced in 2000, the initiative has been growing ever since. According to the TTITOA, more than 3000 domestic tourists participated in tours in 2015, a significant increase from 100 participants in 2000.

“With 14 holidays in T&T’s calendar in 2017, including five to six long weekends, Trinidadians will have ample opportunities to visit Tobago. We expect growth in domestic tourism to continue in 2017,” Akilah Procope, market analyst and economist at the TDC, told OBG.