Planning Minister: Successful tourism product can contribute to Tobago GDP

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Minister of Planning and Development Pennelope Beckles.. – David Reid

Minister of Planning and Development Pennelope Beckles-Robinson told a gathering of small property owners in Tobago on Wednesday that the benefits of a successful tourism product can contribute significantly to the Gross Domestic Product and exports of many islands in the region.

She was speaking at a workshop titled Building Your Brand as a Small Property at the Mt Irvine Hotel. The workshop was hosted by the Inter-American Development Bank and the Tobago House of Assembly.

It sought to present strategies to help small properties to rebrand and repackage their respective offerings, post-covid19.

Beckles-Robinson told stakeholders, “One particular point to understand is that a successful tourism product not only augurs well for the hotel or the company involved: the trickle-down benefits for the tourism sector are among the highest contributors to GDP and exports.”

Alluding to a UN 2020 World Tourism Organisation report, Beckles-Robinson said international tourist arrivals in the region fell 16-18 per cent in 2020.

But, she said many experts agree that the tourism industry in Trinidad and Tobago and the rest of the Caribbean is expected to return to pre-pandemic levels within two-three years.

Beckles-Robinson added that interest in the region as a preferred destination for holidaymakers has already been noted in WTO statistics “with travel to the Caribbean and the Americas, hotel searches and occupancy rates bettering that of other regions during the 2020-2021pandemic period.”

She said, “So, ladies and gentlemen, the time is right. We are on the cusp of the tourism industry where small businesses have the opportunity to carve deeper niches for themselves.

“Building a brand for small tourism properties in Tobago allows small hotel owners to establish a voice in the local, regional and global tourism markets.

“Understanding the importance of building your brand helps you get more bookings, improved recognition, makes your product more memorable and increases the overall value of your property.”

Beckles-Robinson said according to a UN ECLAC report, tourism was a key generator of foreign exchange across the region. In 2019, it accounted for 42 per cent of total exports of goods and services in the Caribbean.

She said the tourism sector also represents significant shares of GDP, up to 11 per cent on average.

“However, this can be calculated as a bit more, since there are many interlinked sectors in the overall tourism economy if we take into consideration agriculture, food, beverages, construction, transportation, the creative industry and entertainment, as well as a host of other related services. What we are talking about is billions of dollars on an annual basis.”

Beckles-Robinson said although the overall tourism market is at its lowest ebb, small businesses can still benefit tremendously from the local market. She used the bed-and-breakfast establishments that facilitated visitors during the A Taste of Buccoo event on Easter Tuesday as an example.

Saying the Government has identified tourism as one of the sectors to promote economic growth and create jobs, Beckles-Robinson said small business operators have a critical role to play in improving their operations.

This, she said, could be achieved through digitisation.

“Digitisation improves efficiency, builds resilience and fosters business continuity, thereby contributing to mitigating against foreseen and unforeseen risks in Tobago’s tourism sector.

She said increasing sustainable opportunities for the Tobago tourism product, including building the brands for small properties, can contribute positively towards the further development of the tourism sector.

“This can be valuable to us, especially given the current financial constraints of Trinidad and Tobago and the need for us to encourage diversification and economic transformation.”