Wooing German tourists
TOBAGO tourism stakeholders have hailed a recent visit to the Internationale Tourismus-Borse (ITB) travel trade show in Berlin, Germany, as a success, but the real test of whether this is so will be measured in tourism arrivals in the coming months and years.
The resumption of flights from Frankfurt to Scarborough a few months ago was a welcome sign of continued interest in the island.
Before the pandemic, international tourist arrivals to our country were in excess of 480,000, according to the World Bank, with Tobago House of Assembly (THA) officials also registering an increase in stayover arrivals on that island from Germany alone by 12 per cent. Having a regular airlink from Condor Airlines undoubtedly played a role in this expansion.
Trinidad, too, has benefited from the Tobago linkages to Europe. For example, Condor promotes its current flight to Tobago by reference to the fact that visitors can benefit from two destinations in one, with attractions in Trinidad such as the Caroni Bird Sanctuary and Mt St Benedict Monastery highlighted.
But it is important to remember that Condor caters to just one segment of the German market, which is large and diverse. The airline’s ownership is also somewhat in flux, in the wake of the collapse of its parent company, Thomas Cook Group, in 2019.
So the visit by THA officials this month to the ITB, regarded as one of the world’s largest trade shows, is, on paper, a good idea.
Tobago’s history of colonialisation by Europe (it was subject to Dutch, French, British and even Courlandian settlement at one stage) also means there is a lot of untapped potential when it comes to accessing markets like Germany.
To really capitalise on all of this, though, Tobago officials need to pay attention to areas where improvement can be made within the overall sector. As noted by Secretary of Tourism, Culture, Antiquities and Transportation Tashia Burris, who attended the trade show, some concerns were raised.
“They have indicated to us, very plainly in some instances, some of the improvements that we have to make,” she said. This is not surprising.
The approach to tourism needs to be on par with what pertains in other Caribbean destinations. It is not simply a matter of room stock.
Additionally, we need to identify what sets us apart as a location and find a way to maximise that. Festivals play a big role in this, and lessons should be learned from recent Tobago experiment with its own carnival.
However, basic things like a focus on infrastructure, quality standards, security and marketing also require a closer look.
The modern tourist is no longer responsive to the same old strategies. There needs to be a sense of added value in whatever experience the island can provide.
Hopefully, THA officials will do more than just listen to what business stakeholders are saying. Hopefully they will focus on customer orientation and also listen to the very tourists they wish to woo.
"Wooing German tourists"