TOBAGO is synonymous with tourism and is famous for its beaches and natural beauty, but according to Tobago House of Assembly Secretary for the Division of Community Development, Enterprise Development, and Labour Marslyn Melville- Jack, Tobago is much more than sea and sand.
Speaking on Thursday at the launch of the Tobago Road Show, themed Unveil..Discover...Invest..Tobago, at Trincity Mall, Melville-Jack said the exhibition, which will continue until today, will enable Tobagonians to expand the private sector with their many products.
“We understand that local tourism is important. We have 1.3 million people in Trinidad and we want to encourage them to understand they do not always have to go abroad for vacation. They can come to Tobago. This exhibition is telling you that when you come to Tobago it is not just about sea and sand, but it is about a total experience.”
She said many of the exhibitors, known as the Tobago Entrepreneurs, who came to showcase their products started of as just hobbies, but this was a nudge to help them make a mark in the open market, and turn their hobbies into a money-making venture.
During the past year the business development unit within the division has disbursed over $2 million in loans and grants to help the entrepreneurs develop and expand their businesses.
As a result, a number of entrepreneurs were able to increase their operation and have now penetrated the Trinidad market.
“We are trying to provide an enabling environment to strengthen and build a robust private sector in Tobago. We have done this by facilitating business grants and loans and it is envisaged that these exhibitors will be able to forge sustainable business partnerships with both customers and investors, thereby increasing their business prospects.”
Melville-Jack said the THA recently signed a memorandum of understanding with ExporTT which has already started yielding results since this allowed entrepreneurs increased access to training, resources and the networking required for the export market.
“They are taking advantage of it because we are realising the private sector, even though it may be slow, it is growing. We had to do that because the dependence on the THA was too high. They are becoming more confident and willing to move out and take risks because we are holding their hands every step of the way.”
MP for Tobago East Ayanna Webster-Roy said this was an opportunity to open up a market for Tobago producers.
“Trinidad is much larger than Tobago in terms of population so why not bring them here and create the exposure and the market which is available in Trinidad? We can and we are making a meaningful contribution to the national GDP.”
Four of Tobago’s entrepreneurs will join the Trade Ministry’s Mission to ExportCaribe which will be held in Santiago, Cuba, from June 19-22.