Interview: Trinidad & Tobago tourism minister Rupert Griffith
Trinidad & Tobago has been one of the success stories in the Caribbean this year, as the region battles back from the global economic downturn.
Here Breaking Travel News sits down with newly appointed tourism minister Rupert Griffith to discuss what the future holds for this top destination.
Breaking Travel News: What kind of year has 2010 proved for Trinidad & Tobago?
Trinidad & Tobago tourism minister Rupert Griffith: The global recession has proved a challenge for many destinations in 2010, however Trinidad & Tobago have introduced incentives to visitors including the new ‘TOBAGO, GO, GO, GO’ initiative – which offers adults in the UK £100 off all holidays booked to Tobago.
The Tourism Development Company of Trinidad & Tobago and the Tobago House of Assembly have together launched this new initiative to offer better value than ever to Tobago over the winter season.
The programme offers a discount of £100 per adult per booking on accommodation for seven nights or more and is valid on bookings made through all UK tour operators.
BTN: How do you envisage 2011 shaping up?
RG: As the newly appointed minister, with a new government in place and the second phase of our tourism quality assurance programmes (TTTIC) underway, I am very positive about the prospects for 2011.
The new initiatives will bring renewed focus to Trinidad and Tobago’s tourism infrastructure and investment, which we are committed to developing while also adhering to stringent sustainability standards.
We are also excited about increased UK flight capacity in to the islands in 2011, with British Airways announcing plans to increase their schedule into Trinidad’s Port of Spain, in March 2011, to a daily service and Virgin Atlantic operating a second weekly flight in to Tobago from October 31st 2011.
BTN: What has been your strategy for coping with the global downturn?
RG: As with many destinations, 2010 has been a challenging year particularly due to the effects of the global recession and the implications of Air Passenger Duty on the Caribbean as a whole.
However, the support of travel agents and the industry as we rally to combat these challenges has been fantastic.
The refurbishment and upgrade of a number of properties in Trinidad & Tobago has shown our commitment to our visitors’ experience on the islands.
The beaches of Trinidad & Tobago are famous around the world
BTN: How would you like your travel and tourism economy to evolve?
RG: With a vast range of new initiatives introduced this year, we aim to provide the best holiday experience for our visitors.
What are your key markets? And where do you see the most potential for growth?
RG: Trinidad & Tobago is a fusion of vibrant cultures, unspoiled beaches, eco-adventure, breath-taking scenery and a range of activities and sports, so it has something for everyone.
We welcome families to come and watch our leatherback turtles lay their eggs on the shores, friends and couples to enjoy our beaches, fine bars and restaurants and stunning hotels.
We are looking forward to further refurbishment and the upgrade of a number of properties in Trinidad & Tobago.
BTN: What are you hoping to achieve at this year’s Caribbean Marketplace?
RG: We are looking forward to representing Trinidad & Tobago at next year’s Caribbean Marketplace and talking more about our new initiatives which have been introduced to give our visitors the most enjoyable experience on the islands.
This is through the level of service and quality on the islands.
Additionally, we are expecting to use this forum to forge stronger linkages with US, UK and German Tour Operators selling Caribbean destinations.
Our goal is to highlight the uniqueness of Trinidad & Tobago’s tourism product offering.
BTN: What are the key issues facing the Caribbean as a region, and what can be done collectively between the islands to foster travel and tourism?
RG: Inevitably, the implications of Air Passenger Duty on the Caribbean as a whole has had an impact, but Trinidad & Tobago has given their full support to the Caribbean islands as a whole.
BTN: What in the way of plans, development or initiatives are currently underway on your island?
RG: As well as our tourism initiative TTTIC, we will be developing important initiatives in Trinidad & Tobago which underpin our commitment to developing sustainable tourism.
These initiatives include the Green Globe programme, which supports tourism providers on the island to establish standards and gain international certification around environmentally sustainable operating practices.
The TDC has also introduced the new STAR programme, a new initiative aimed at creating a culture of consistent service excellence in Trinidad and Tobago.
The programme will focus on training, development, awareness and education and is aimed at those involved in every level of the tourism experience.
As regards events, our Carnival (“the greatest show on earth”) and the Tobago Jazz Experience are perennial favourites, but we have numerous arts and cultural events throughout the year, so much so that we are claiming Trinidad and Tobago as “the cultural capital of the Caribbean”.