At the launch of Caribbean Tourism Month 2017 (CTM) at the Fondes Amandes Reforestation Centre in St Ann’s, Shamfa Cudjoe, Minister of Tourism, said she was bent on making TT the top Caribbean tourist destination.
She said: “We have had 299,281 visitors to TT so far for the year, but we have more work to do, as tourism is the key driver of our economic development.”
Earlier she said she was in awe of nature and her surroundings, with the watershed and trees. Cudjoe said: “I am surprised and pleased with what I’ve seen here. People here seem proud of their community and that is what tourism is all about. The warmth and hospitality.”
She added that people had a duty to make it their asset, and must have the will, drive and determination to do so. The drive was also about investment and marketing.
Cudjoe said it was her ministry’s intent to make citizens aware of their responsibility to welcome and make visitors comfortable, and that they will be doing so through conventional and new media.
Student tourism clubs from Manzanilla High School and Naparima Girls’ High School were at the event.
Naps girl Le-An Telesford, who won the national Junior Minister of Tourism competition, and placed third at the Caribbean Tourism Organisation Youth Congress in Grenada in September, shared some of her ideas. One such idea was The Poui Festival.
“The Poui Festival will be a celebration of the culture and heritage of TT, with the poui tree as the backdrop for all the festivities. Patrons will hear the sweet sounds of steelpan and sitar as they walk through the field of poui trees, she said. “Local artists, artisans and performers from all over the country will be showcased at the Poui Festival. Children will enjoy themselves at the Poui Kite flying and storytelling events. The Poui Cook Out will display our local cuisine.”
In preparation for the event she asked all present to plant a poui seedling. In all 8,000 seedlings are expected to be planted.
Another aim of Telesford’s is to hold a photography and art competition for secondary school students, in which they will be tasked with capturing the hidden gems of tourism in their communities.
Ultimately she said: “I want every student in TT to be proud of our country and to showcase it in the best light possible because it is our responsibility to make TT a premier tourism destination.”
In her welcome address, Akilah Jaramogi, founder and managing director of the Fondes Amandes Community Reforestation Project (FACRP), told guests the goal of the community was to stop forest fires. To do this the organisation they created and developed a product using razor grass, cocorite palms and bamboo and planted 70,000 seedlings.
Jaramogi said when the project started there was a change in the behaviour of the people in the community, and they soon began to understand and appreciate the FACRP.
She said: “The journey continues. Ten minutes from downtown we have been able to create this eco-tourism space, a totally organic project that can be shared.
After formally declaring CTM open, Cudjoe was presented with a herbal medical kit by Jaramogi before the official party went to plant poui seedlings.