The Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association (THTA) is to embark on a new initiative aimed at enhancing hotel occupancy and assisting with marketing strategies to boost the island's tourism thrust.
THTA president Chris James said the Tourism Enhancement Fund, which is expected to be established by month's end, will allow tourists staying at the island's hotels and guesthouses to donate one dollar for each night of their visit.
The money, he said, will then be put into a partnership programme for marketing and other initiatives with the Tobago House of Assembly or Tobago Tourism Agency.
"This is a programme that we have looked at for number of years. But it is a difficult one for us to implement because of the low occupancy rate," he said on Tuesday while addressing participants on Day Two of the Tobago Environmental Partnership Conference at Mt Irvine Bay Resort.
Speaking on the topic, Fostering Partnership Among Government, Civil Society and Private Sector, James said islands like St Lucia have already implemented the fund and raised millions of dollars.
"Of course, they have 78 per cent occupancy at an average of $380 per night. So, they have a much larger chance to make more money. But we will get there. We can do that."
James said the fund would be managed by a board of trustees.
"So, once that grows to an amount of money that is usable, they will decide on the projects. It will be split. There will be some purely marketing activities and they there will be some green activities. there may be some training activities. It depends on how quickly we can grow that fund."
Jams listed several programmes for which the fund could be used. Those include marketing the island as a green destination and promoting agriculture, sustainable fishing, locally-produced craft and health and wellness.
James said a portion of the fund could also be used to support sporting events and reafforestation.
"We can get the tourists to pay to plant a tree, which they can name after themselves and come back, time and time again to hopefully look at."
Asked if there is as set criteria governing the disbursement of funds, James said: "What they have done in the other islands is use the fund as they go along because, especially in this (Tobago) case, we desperately need marketing. So, we just hope the fund grows quickly enough to do things."
He said in some islands, funding for projects is split equally between government and the respective tourist associations.
"So, when the government does a project, we can offer to pay 50 per cent of the project, hopefully less, so we can get more projects done. So, it's a buy in all around," he said.
James said Trinidadians staying at hotels in Tobago can also contribute to the fund.