Sat on the leather sofas located in the VIP Lounge at ITB Berlin I am greeted by one Mr. Brian E. Harry, President of TIDCO (Tourism and Industrial Development Company of Trinidad and Tobago Ltd). The crowd can be heard bustling around outside as the traders tout their wares in a bid to increase tourism arrivals. Brian has a certain aura about him, mild mannered yet authoritive in character, we pondered the delights of the Caribbean Nations that he so lovingly represents. “T&T really is the Capital of culture for the world,” Mr. Harry enthuses, and it’s hard not to believe him as speaks with such passion and pride. “We really are a true melting pot where so many races and different cultures live in harmony. It’s a true melting pot and a true rainbow.” We start the conversation with a little light banter to break the ice; Mr. Harry makes it clear that 2004 will be a marketing extravaganza for the island nations. “In 2004 both the marketing campaign and the promotional campaign are going to be aggressive. In order to do this we are looking for a marketing company who have a the experience of marketing on a global scale. The thing is that we see ourselves as an up market destination and wish to market ourselves in this way. We believe in our product, T&T and it is important that we market it to the correct clientele.”
Brian makes it clear that Trinidad and Tobago has “Niches and cultural nuances” that set them aside from other Caribbean destinations.
“Nearly all Caribbean islands market themselves in the same way, towards the three S’s, Sun, Sand and Sea. Trinidad and Tobago have other things to offer. Cultural uniqueness that other islands just cannot deliver.”
With this is mind it is no wonder that Trinidad and Tobago offer good investment opportunities. “Some of the best factors for wanting to invest in T&T are our strong micro economic fundamentals, coupled with the fact we can offer the possibility of co-investment. Also, we have a modern, state of the art airport. Because of our positioning his allows us to be the gateway to central and Latin America for the rest of the world.”
Business on T&T is booming, in 2003 arrivals surpassed 400,000, making it the strongest year on record. Brian wants to see these figures maintained and bettered and believes the way in which to do so is by utilising the Internet.
“The Internet is very important in marketing T&T as a destination. Most of our marketing for Carnival was done on the Internet and this proved to be very successful. You can get a vast amount of coverage for a very moderate price. As long as people have connectivity then we can reach them”
This is can not be argued, the Internet is rapidly proving to be the Caribbean’s most cost effective and productive means of advertising/marketing. With an estimated 47 million broadband subscribers and users in the US alone it is not difficult to calculate the rewards that can be gained by investing in a strong Internet marketing campaign.
Continuing with talk of Carnival Mr. Harry went on to explain just how important it is to the regions tourism sector.
“T&T’s Carnival is the mother of all Carnivals! It is our flagship festival and one that is very important to us. We receive visitors from across the globe and it is fantastic to see so many cultures from across the globe coming together in one street and partying together! And it has to be said that we have the best looking girls in the world! When you think you have half a million people dancing in the streets and 70 percent of those people are the most beautiful girls in the world, you really cannot afford to miss Carnival! If you miss this festival then you really are missing half of your life!”
Now that my imagination had been set alight with a raucous set of images, I decided it was best to perhaps change the direction of my questions before I lost the point completely!
I calmly dried my brow and quizzed Mr. Harry on the importance of ITB.
“This year ITB Berlin has proved to be a fabulous success, we have been able to aggressively tell the world about our product and our culture. We have expressed our music and our culture; we have had the steel band from Tobago (and everybody should know that the steel drum was invented in Trinidad!). Also at ITB this year we had ‘Mungal Patasar and Pantar” a band that is the only one in the world to create the fusion of music that it does! It is very representative of the diversity of cultures on T&T and brings them together in a unique musical experience. Also we displayed our foods with the assistance of our globally celebrated chef Deborah Metivier.”
With that I started to realise that perhaps T&T really is the “Capital of Culture” and thanked Mr. Harry for his time, and quickly made my way to book my ticket for Carnival 2005!!