Interview: Randall Mitchell
To what extent have efforts been taken to diversify Trinidad and Tobago’s tourism offerings?
RANDALL MITCHELL: T&T has three distinct destination marketing brands, namely Trinidad for meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE); Tobago for leisure-based tourism; and Destination Trinidad and Tobago. The short-term strategy for the growth of the MICE segment is the development of homegrown conferences, which would not be dependent on the traditional Trinidad and Tobago Meeting Planners’ Guide. In the interim, in addition to the hosting of local and international meetings such as the Annual Energy Conference, the T&T Annual Trade and Industry conference, and the American Chamber of Commerce Health, Safety, Security and Environment conference, T&T must create a sense of place in order to realise greater economic benefits from the MICE segment in the longer term, with respect to the hosting of conferences.
The strategy for diversifying T&T’s tourism offering away from the Carnival season includes, inter alia, initiating additional seasons throughout the calendar year. January to March is devoted to Carnival season; April to June features music and literary festivals; July to September is cultural, culinary and creative festivals season; and October to December focuses on religious festivals.
In your view, what are the hurdles that T&T faces in establishing a diversified tourism industry?
MITCHELL: There are numerous factors that affect the development of the tourism industry, including environmental, safety and security, and technological issues. The challenge for the government is to create an enabling environment that is conducive to the growth of the tourism sector. These efforts include infrastructure development at various sites and attractions, capacity building and engagement of stakeholders, customer service training, and promoting awareness of tourism’s importance and contribution to the national economy.
How successful are T&T’s two agencies in developing distinct offerings on each island?
MITCHELL: The Tobago Tourism Agency has taken the lead in promoting Tobago as a leisure, eco-adventure and heritage destination. While Tourism Trinidad Destination Management Company has faced some delays, it is recruiting staff and has been working to deliver on its mandate to promote and market Trinidad as an attractive tourism destination. A focus has been placed on stakeholder and business-to-business engagement, the development of marketing and promotion activities, and education and awareness of Destination Trinidad. Over FY 2020 Tourism Trinidad will complete the Destination Trinidad brand identity, and deliver on its mandate. This will be accomplished through marketing and promotion efforts both locally and regionally, and in key source markets including North America, the UK and Latin America. In addition, significant strides will be made in developing the sites and attractions for the destination, and ensuring that a service culture is tailored and well targeted.
What opportunities exist for multi-destination tourism and collaboration across the Caribbean?
MITCHELL: Historically, multi-destination tourism and collaboration have not been as successful in the Caribbean region as expected. T&T has tourism cooperation agreements with a number of countries, such as Cuba and Guatemala, which can facilitate multi-destination travel. Opportunities also exist for an increase in airlift and code-sharing agreements.
The entry of new global airlines into the T&T market will allow for competitive pricing, which will boost visitor arrivals, while the expansion of Caribbean Airlines routes will increase outbound domestic traffic.
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