WHAT is Tobago’s tourism strategy?
THA Minority Leader Kelvon Morris posed this question to the Secretary of the Division of Tourism, Culture, Antiquities and Transportation, Tashia Burris, on Thursday.
He was responding to a video on social media which showed a jab molassie character performing at the recent World Travel Market (WTM) in London.
In the video, which went viral, the jab molassie is seen shouting and staring menacingly at the delegates as they viewed his performance.
The man portraying the jab molassie is said to be a member of the Tobago Performing Arts Company, which was part of the island’s delegation at the WTM.
Tobago's presentation at the WTM also featured steelpan music, traditional Tobago folk dancers and conventional mas costumes.
Morris said the division must have a clear picture of what aspects of Tobago’s culture it intends to market when attending international trade shows.
“We have to understand brand alignment, and the question I would simply ask the secretary and those responsible for marketing the destination is, ‘What is the brand that you are trying to sell?’ 'When you go to these travel shows, what are the things you want people to remember about this beautiful space called Tobago?'”
He said the island is filled with beautiful beaches and creative people who have made their mark on the world stage.
“We have steelpan players like Gerard Balfour and Kersh Ramsey, Duvone Stewart. We have bands that continue to dominate Trinidad in the national pan competitions. We have calypsonians of world repute. We have scholars, some of the best organisers of weddings and romance. We are a destination that has adventure.”
Morris said those elements of Tobago’s culture may not have been what the delegates took away from the WTM, “because what is trending (jab molassie) is something that perhaps we don’t see here in Tobago every day.
“It therefore shows and it tells us that this administration (and) the secretary of tourism, have absolutely no clue what is their tourism strategy. It is clear as day that they do not have any clue as to what is the product they are trying to sell.
“How are they going to market this product that they are trying to sell and they don’t understand the core pillars?”
In the past, Morris said, travellers and other tourism stakeholders complained there was no clear definition of Tobago’s tourism product.
“And so, after studies and utilising expertise, there was a clear brand identification that we would want to focus Tobago as an island where you can enjoy love, romance and weddings. So if you want to reconnect your romance, Tobago is a love place you can come; natural maritime beauty, beautiful beaches, a place of cultural diversity – you can come.”
He said it does not appear the division is focusing on those core pillars.
“In fact, it seems to me that the strategy has been derailed and it has been replaced by emptiness, and where there is emptiness, foolishness will take place.”
Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) political leader Watson Duke also commented on the video.
In a WhatsApp video, Duke said the WTM team must apologise to Tobagonians.
“Nowhere in the history of the countries that have been to the WTM, we find people portraying primitive men or men that are unsocialised, uncivilised.
“Here we are, in 2023, in the age of AI (artificial intelligence), displaying a character that is screaming to the ears of would-be visitors, cold running down his beard and he is looking wild, uncivilised. Reminds me of the theory of Charles Darwin evolution. This is not Tobago, this is another country, and they are selling Tobago short.”
Charles Darwin was an English naturalist whose theory of biological evolution stated that species develop through the natural selection of small, inherited variations that increase the "survival of the fittest."