What measures are being taken to enhance Tobago’s value proposition as a tourism destination?
CHARLES: The executive council has already approved the new Tobago Tourism Agency, which is now being set up to manage all aspects of tourism events, marketing and our strategic direction. This process has been supported through upgrades of major tourism sites and attractions, heritage trails and the monetisation of Fort King George in Scarborough. The move to realign the tourism division portfolio to include the Department of Culture is an indication of our strategy to leverage the creative industries and Tobago’s talent to enhance the tourism product by offering an authentic taste of Tobago, not just through sand, sea, sun and food, but by also sharing our culture and traditions. Of course, collaboration with the government to strengthen security and conduct upgrades at the port, as well as ANR Robinson International Airport, will all add to the perception of Tobago as having the capacity, appeal and ambience visitors are looking for.
How can resort tourism catalyse the development of the wider economy?
CHARLES: Resort tourism offers two major advantages. First, there is the potential for additional foreign direct investment. Second, it leads to greater market access to a wider clientele pool. Therefore, Tobago intends to exploit this opportunity to accomplish both.
These goals are not mutually exclusive; greater investment will make the island more attractive, which will open Tobago up to new possibilities and strengthen our tourism product. Finding the right opportunities that will enhance what we already have is the challenging part, and this is where negotiations with interested investors such as the Sandals Group — with whom we are currently in talks for two proposed resorts at the Golden Grove Estate — will allow us to influence how we achieve this. Opportunities like this will have a ripple effect on various other sectors impacted by resorts, including food production, light manufacturing, entrepreneurship, and arts and culture.
How will the THA look to enhance sea and air links with the island of Trinidad?
CHARLES: Tobago recently hosted a meeting of national security heads to discuss security measures and asses how best to optimise our security resources. In terms of infrastructure, there are plans to upgrade the port facilities and add a new international terminal to the ANR Robinson International Airport, in collaboration with the central government, and the area for this expansion has already been earmarked.
We are also in constant contact with Caribbean Airlines and the Port Authority of Trinidad and Tobago to find ways to enhance the current transport system. For the sea bridge, negotiations are under way to procure new cargo and passenger transport vessels to service the route, which will bring us the level of predictability we’re seeking. In the next few years, the country will secure a brand new, custom-made cargo vessel, owned by T&T, that will best serve our needs.
What steps are being taken to facilitate the success of Tobago’s entrepreneurs?
CHARLES: Tobago’s entrepreneurs have been the beneficiaries of business expansion support and training initiatives geared at diversification and stimulation of the economy. This effort has been led by the Business Development Unit, which was recently moved to the Division of Community Development, Enterprise Development and Labour, as we employ a community-centric approach to enterprise development.
This approach means bringing more resources to different regions, and allowing community businesses more opportunity to create wealth and expand. It will also result in more job creation and vocational skills training within the communities, which will help to build the skills capacity needed for a broader economy.
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