Tourism secretary: Small property owners must build a brand

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Tourism secretary Tashia Burris at a workshop on Wednesday to help accomodation providers to grow their business. – David Reid

THA Secretary of Tourism, Culture, Antiquities and Transportation Tashia Burris has advised Tobago’s small property owners to effectively market their offerings through online platforms and other avenues to remain competitive.

“Building your brand and effectively communicating your story will allow visitors to understand what is your value proposition and then it must be matched, it has to be matched by the experience and service offered,” Burris said on Wednesday.

“Whether it means implementing a higher safety standard, as some of your accommodation providers have done, employing eco-friendly measures or by providing a 360-degree immersive experience from the moment one arrives in the island, your story and ours (Tobago’s) must be told.

“Ideally, you must go beyond to ensure that customers can connect with the intentional elements that differentiate you from others in the marketplace.”

She was addressing tourism stakeholders at a workshop, titled Building Your Brand As A Small Property, at the Mt Irvine Hotel.

The event, a collaboration between the Inter-American Development Bank (IABD) and the Tobago House of Assembly, culminated months of virtual discussions between the two entities.

Burris said the boutique concept allows small property owners to set themselves apart as accommodation providers with a unique style.

Referring to a US boutique hotel report for 2020, she noted that boutique hotels were the fastest growing sector of the hotel industry for the third year running, outpacing extended stay and upscale hotels, which traditionally are the leading segments.

Burris also pointed to the growth in Airbnb establishments, which, she said, highlighted the decline and desire for traditional hotel chains as tourists seek out more unique and personalised experiences.

She said the market size in the boutique hotel alone is forecast to reach US$12.39 billion in 2022.

Burris added despite a drop in 2020 due to reductions in travel owing to covid19 and the fall in market size, the number of businesses in the boutique hotel industry in the US has been growing over the last decade and is forecast to continue on this growth path.

“Within all of this, our local stakeholders can and must tap in, and hotel branding is key to elevating your business in the local, regional and international marketplace.”

Noting that many travellers now prioritise originality, distinctiveness and an online presence when seeking accommodation, Burris said boutique hotels have an amazing opportunity to embrace online platforms.

She added the internet and social media provide untold opportunities, even in the midst of the changes brought about by the pandemic, to grow businesses.

“As an administration, we firmly believe that Tobago is the greatest little island on the planet, and as we seek to create the best environment to live and vacation, our boutique hotels must mirror this too. Our boutique hotels must offer truly immersive experiences that are inescapably Tobago, taking on the personality and the spirit of our unique island.”

She added, “As secretary responsible for tourism, I am eager to see an increase in the number of boutique hotel properties that value their brand and reputation and also strive to offer outstanding visitor experiences that benefit both the individual property and the island by extension.”

With over 250 boutique accommodation properties in Tobago, Burris told operators, “You are all integral to the sustainability of the Tobago tourism sector. As such, there must be a collaborative effort to ensure that quality and standards match and exceed expectations.”

She said key agencies such as the Tobago Tourism Agency Ltd must also keep on the pulse of standards and certification.