Tourism Trinidad aiming for 500,000 visitors by 2026

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Carla Cupid, CEO of Tourism Trinidad Ltd –

By 2026, Tourism Trinidad Ltd is hoping to have 500,000 visitors to this country, its CEO Carla Cupid said as she addressed a cheque handover ceremony for recipients of its Tourism Accommodation Upgrade Project (TAUP).

Cara Hotel, Holiday Inn Express and Suites, Par May La Inn, Royal Hotel, Tradewinds Hotel and Sundeck Suites were the recipients of the reimbursements on Friday at the Grand Riviere Room, Courtyard by the Marriott, Audrey Jeffers Highway, Port of Spain.

TAUP is a reimbursable grant provided to eligible small to medium-sized accommodation properties for upgrades to approved accommodation facilities.

The programme was renewed for another three-year term in the 2024 budget statement, Finance Minister Colm Imbert announced.

Cupid said TAUP was vital to ensuring TT’s guest satisfaction was at an optimal level, and this was necessary for increased arrivals.

It hoped to achieve its increased arrivals through four niche categories: sport, festival, heritage (diaspora) and meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions, she said.

Tourism Trinidad Ltd had a calendar of events planned for next year, including a Culinary and Cocoa Festival in July.

The company is also aiming to host more small and medium conferences in the country, as it already had the facilities and infrastructure in place.

“What we as a tourism agency or board plan to do is facilitate more of those types of meetings to come to Trinidad. We believe looking at those four board categories as the leads in developing an increasing visitor arrivals. We believe that we will reach half a million visitors in 2026.”

Its long-term goal was to have a million visitors by 2032.

As TT edges closer to Carnival 2024, the tourism agency was also expecting increased arrivals for that period.

Cupid said TT had about 27,000 visitors last Carnival and the company was looking at an incremental increase next year of about 31-32,000.

“We are basing that on the fact that even prior to the covid19 pandemic we would have seen a six and a half per cent increase in arrivals for Carnival in 2020 and then right after that borders were closed.

“What we have noticed, looking at our social media and also in speaking with people who are outside and want to come, there is a pent-up travel demand, there is demand for Carnival and to come to Trinidad, especially among our diaspora,” she said.

Cupid said she was happy the six hoteliers saw the benefit of the TAUP programme, and were able to invest and be reimbursed.

“There is a 50 per cent reimbursement. Whatever works they do are audited. Once it is audited, it is verified and then we would be able to say they will receive $X to offset whatever they put out at the start,” Cupid said. Ernst and Young are the auditors.

The tourism agency’s deputy chairman Rene Seepersadsingh said contracts with the applicants were sealed over a year ago and on Friday they were celebrating the successful completion of upgrades.

TAUP is a transformative initiative playing a vital role in reshaping the tourism sector, he said.

He said that this was strategically developed to support and motivate owners of small to medium-sized tourism accommodation properties through a partial reimbursement programme which aligned with TT’s tourism policy.

Seepersadsingh said the tourism sector was one of the few foreign-exchange earners for this country.

He said TAUP was in its fifth cycle and the remaining six applicants for the 2020-23 cycles were actively engaged in upgrades with a total combined reimbursement of $1.2 million and anticipated completion between March 2023 and March 2024.

Seepersadsingh said since its inception TAUP had provided $13.5 million in reimbursements across properties.

TAUP began nine years ago and operates in three-year cycles.