Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Tobago Tourism Authority (TTA), St Lucian national, Louis Lewis, says Tobago can benefit from having a Sandals resort on the island.
Lewis, who comes to the TTA as a former Director and chief executive officer of the St Lucia Tourist Board, was introduced to the Tobago media at the post Executive Council media briefing on Wednesday by Tourism Secretary Nadine Stewart Phillips.
He told reporters said the Sandals brand was working for St Lucia tourism, and just needs to be managed to reap benefits.
“Sandals promotes themselves as a brand and everywhere they operate, they have high occupancy levels. It is an all-inclusive concept that they have mastered, and I think coming with that, you have your benefits that can be accrued from it,” he said.
“All your agencies that depend on volume like your Port Authority, taxi drivers’ associations, agricultural people who supply food to the hotels, all of these are the agents that will benefit from having an operator that has high volumes.
“Having an operation like the Sandals brand, it creates opportunities for you that you otherwise would not have had. It is a high demand for the destination that comes in for volumes of traffic and all the attendant beneficiaries that comes out of that benefits to the destination. It is something that you just have to manage because you have a great value of people that can come to Sandals and the Sandals property,” he added.
In terms of the current state of tourism in Tobago and his focus on the sector as CEO of the TTA, Lewis said attention will be paid to the
airbridge and seabridge in that “access to and from Tobago” is part of the tourism product.
He also said the TTA will be working closely with hotel associations “because at the agency we are in the business of creating an impression, creating a demand but at the end of the day for it to become effective, there must be a sale.”
“The Tobago Tourism Agency does not sell anything, so we have to be working with those persons who sell the product …We are inviting persons to visit Tobago and to experience it so the product has to be developed on the market message and that is something that we have to pay very close attention to and that product also speaks to standards,” he said.
Lewis also said there must be a re-establishment of the Tobago brand.
“It is really difficult to point to one thing that I would do as a major… you really have to be rounded in your approach because of the multi-faceted way in which tourism operates. A lot of what we do starts with the re-establishment of what is Tobago; the brand, what do we want to sell ourselves as, how do we want to be identified in the marketplace, so you will see a lot of effort being spent on developing a brand and very closely with that brand is a marketing plan that actually actions the
aspirations of the people and how we want to position ourselves in the market place,” he said.
Responding to questions on why he has joined the TTA, Lewis said his application for the position was ‘a very fortunate circumstance of coincidence’.
“I was available doing some private consulting and I saw the advertisement. I jumped for it because I thought I fit right into it,” he said.
Lewis has held several high profile posts with the St Lucian Government - Director of Economic Affairs in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Commerce, Trade, Investment and Consumer Affairs, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation, Head of the Research Department at the Saint Lucia Tourist Board and Economist with the Ministry of Finance.
TTA Chairman, Dr Sherma Roberts, speaking at the briefing, said Lewis was selected, through a recruiting agency, from 81 applicants, 80 percent of whom were from Trinidad and Tobago.
She said he was chosen from a shortlist of five persons based on his experience, qualifications, background, understanding of the public and
private sectors and an understanding of economic reality and budget finance, and “who has a vision for the destination.”