Seconds after leaving the ANR Robinson International Airport, visitors to Tobago will encounter a humongous billboard obliquely opposite the Crown Point police station. Upon seeing this massive "ad" for the first time a few weeks ago, it struck me as a sort of welcome message being inadvertently shouted to visitors upon their arrival to the island.
To those who have not seen the billboard, the loud and clear message is:
“K-F-ceine: a neurotransmitter that triggers happiness and satisfaction when you eat KFC” – accompanied by the image of a huge KFC-branded bucket filled with cooked chicken limbs. Through the promise of happiness and satisfaction, the billboard invites people to consume a fast food product that is eaten in large, sometimes excessive, quantities in TT – resulting in it being referred to by some as the "national dish." How wonderful it would be if fresh, natural food and healthy diets were given such visual prominence – especially as our nation is currently being called, more than ever, to focus on more wholesome nourishment and greater all round well-being.
Considering that Tobago has only two small KFC outlets, the size of billboard (perhaps the largest I have seen in Tobago) and its placement so close to the airport is interesting. Many foreign visitors are likely to be environmentally conscious and into nature (hence their choice of Tobago as a destination). They come to Tobago most likely to taste the fresh "catch of the day," bread baked in dirt ovens, traditional creole food and food cooked at home by new/old friends and AirBnB hosts. Upon arrival to "tropical paradise," a huge promo for fast food that is easily accessible "back home" is most likely not one of the first things they expect or want to see.
The spot occupied by the billboard is prime "real estate" for what could, be a tasteful (no pun intended) "Welcome to Tobago" type structure or sign.
With regard to signage many (myself included) wonder about the reason for and placement of the large, recently erected "Welcome to Canaan, Bon-Accord” archway on the highway. Not only does the signage have questionable punctuation (why is Bon Accord hyphenated? And the comma between Canaan and Bon Accord suggests (to those who may not know) that Canaan is a part of Bon Accord) – but the archway is oddly placed. Its location is neither Canaan nor Bon Accord – two separate villages situated much further up Milford Road after the road to Friendship Estate.
If it is that the powers that be in Tobago were eager to spend money on another huge sign (like the "I Love Tobago" and "I Love Buccoo" ones) or, in this case, archway, a more fitting consideration would have been a tastefully-designed "Welcome to Tobago" arch stretching across the road at the location now visually dominated by K-F-ceine. Such an archway could be an attractive welcome portal to foreign arrivals.
"Tourism jargon for this hypothetical arch, to be featured on Tobago tourism websites and in magazines and brochures, could read as follows:
“Located a stone’s throw from the ANR Robinson International Airport in Crown Point, Tobago’s state of the art "Paradise Portal," designed by creative son/daughter of the soil, John/Jane Doe, arches in a warm embrace, welcoming visitors to the vibrant and loving nature of our beautiful island. This landmark archway, created with rustic, indigenous materials, is specially designed to give each visitor the unique experience of entering another world – our world – in which one is invited to surrender to Tobago’s simple, natural spirit. Drop the trappings of concrete jungles and fast living, and slip into something more comfortable...calm...casual...as you do upon coming home.”
In the absence of such a concept, arrivals are currently greeted by a message that happiness and satisfaction in Tobago are to be found in a bucket of chicken.
We all promote what matters to us. The bigger the better if one can afford it.
Were I wealthy enough to take advantage of such vast ad space in that prime spot, my chosen visual would be one of the striking "Before and After" photographs I have captured of mangy, skeletal rescued dogs that (with love and patience) were transformed into stunningly gorgeous canine specimens. The wording, meant for locals and foreigners alike, would be along the lines of “Welcome to Tobago! Be Kind to Animals. Love Transforms” – a message that would appeal to our mostly animal-loving foreign visitors, while also hopefully encouraging more locals to live up to its request. Imagine if the billboard in that spot was a "blank canvas" and, through an ongoing national competition (with attractive prizes), Tobago dwellers were invited to submit thought-provoking, meaningful, uplifting "welcome to Tobago" messages that would be changed every quarter, with each winning entry being featured. This incentive would give citizens a creative voice, encourage national pride and most likely appeal highly to visitors.