Last week I wrote on the topic of innovation and diversification as well as our seeming hesitation at breaking new ground to explore and expand our income streams. Interestingly enough, this week I had the opportunity to visit the Ft Lauderdale International Boat Show (FLIBS 2017), held in Ft Lauderdale, Florida, where once again, I was confronted with any number of thoughts and questions as to what is holding us back from developing an aggressive approach at exploring new opportunity. This international boat show certainly is not the sole one on the market, as these types of engagements are held in any number of territories. However, considering the location and any number of push and pull factors, I shall use this one as an example of what we can begin to explore.
Upon entering the event, one is greeted with what is termed as ‘island music.’ There is reggae and soca blaring from the speakers, with a brief interlude during which the piped music is turned off, and one could hear the sounds of the steel pan being played by a soloist at the main entrance. As one explored any of the 1,500 exhibit booths, it became obvious what was being sold was the concept and notion of the ‘island life’ experience. With over US$4 billion in boats and wares on display, coupled with 100,000 visitors, three million square feet of exhibit space resident in this US$36 billion industry, one wonders why Trinidad and Tobago is not present at such an event or similar events.
As one continues exploring the experience, and in very close proximity to the steel pan soloist, one becomes aware of the Bahamas Tourist Board’s presentation resident within the ‘tourism display area’. Of course, the Bahamas Tourism Board recognises this as an opportunity to leverage on the sale of the ‘island experience’ within the boating and yachting industry. After all, this potential clientele presents any of the island nations being explored, the opportunity to offer their unique experiences. Obliquely opposite to the Bahamas Tourist booth, were the yacht and boat shipping booths, which also did their parts in exploring the islands to which they shipped various vessels including the US Virgin Islands, St Lucia and Martinique – all being provided real estate to sell the ‘island experience’.
The development of this area as a growing opportunity is certainly not new, as we have seen some growth in this industry in Trinidad and Tobago, and indeed many of us have had the opportunity to at least experience the Down the Islands tours, be it on a private or chartered vessel. The issue remains, we have not begun to leverage on the growing industry as we should, which entails the development of infrastructure to accommodate the growing interest and number of vessels, the protection of the natural resources, and the maintenance of the product (eg ensuring the various bays are kept clean and are managed).
Undoubtedly, Trinidad and Tobago has what it takes to offer from a product perspective for this industry, as recently, we were alerted to the visit by industry leader, Bill Gates aboard his super yacht. This, among other areas, should signal to us that we are indeed blessed with the natural resources that can be used as the pull factors. However, such factors, if left underdeveloped, will see us continuing to do more of the same, while expecting different results.