Tobago's international arrivals will increase by another 25 per cent by the end of 2019, says CEO of the Tobago Tourism Agency (TTAL) Louis Lewis. The CEO, however, reminded Tobago tourism stakeholders that they must enhance the product of service being offered to make visitors' stay here worthwhile and memorable.
Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Lewis said the agency’s road map for growth points to a further 40 per cent increase of visitor arrivals by the end of 2020.
He said, “If all goes well, we should get to a 90 per cent increase, but this plan requires a lot of dedicated strategic planning, patience and repetitive work to ensure there is a growing demand for the destination.
"At the same time, there should be increased access to the destination and a growth also in the accommodation property to absorb that demand we are on course to create.”
TTAL recorded a 17.7 per cent increase in international arrivals between January and March and is now focusing on achieving 25 per cent growth for the remainder of 2019. Lewis said, “That hasn’t happened by magic, but it really is testimony to the fact that our strategy that we have implemented is really showing signs of success. We have set ourselves a very ambitious goal and target for this year, which is to grow by 25 per cent for our international stakeholders' arrivals, and I am happy we are on course to attain that target.”
The reason for this success was using the island’s strengths to create a number of impressions in the international markets, Lewis added, “We have been able to serve options in a number of strategic areas...We have focused on the geographic market: for instance the UK is and continues to be our largest market, accounting for more than 50 per cent of our arrivals, and we have concentrated our activities in that market.”
The agency has also narrowed its focus on the German market and has sold Tobago as the preferred tropical Caribbean vacation, and through this was able to attract an increased number of visitors from there. He said the agency reported a 22 per cent increase in February, 18 per cent in March and 40 per cent in April, compared to the same period last year.
For 2019 the agency has sought to highlight the uniqueness of the island by promoting “101 things to do in Tobago” to the international and regional markets.
“It helps clarify what makes Tobago distinctive from the rest of Caribbean islands. That is a clear sign we are heading in the right direction. But associated with that marketing result, we also have some initiatives ongoing with regard with the product, and the product is what endorses the marketing message. If we go outside and create impressions and the product doesn’t deliver, we would be a part of creating a problem.”
Some of the programmes established include: a product development initiatives to enhance the experiences of visitors; a tourism upgrade project to encourage property owners to enhance the quality of their offerings; and a product audit to assess the quantity and quality of accommodation offerings.
“This is important because we want to know how many rooms we have, the capacity of the rooms, the quality, what they represent, how interactive and digitally immersed they are or are not, and how do we align our marketing with what they have. It shows us what we have to address if we have to become more competitive in our region and globally.
“The level of service delivery is being enhanced, or at least we are pursuing an enhancement and encouraging a number of properties to get the TTAL certifications. This identifies a number of points to visitors of service delivery – accommodation, transportation services and tour guides – and with the certification comes a level of service delivery and standardisation. This certification is a precursor of what we know will be inevitable, mandatory standard and will become law in the near future."