Tobago Carnival spurs conversation on connectivity from Trinidad
As preparations for the Tobago Carnival kick into high gear, bringing people to the island is now the goal.
Tashia Burris, secretary for tourism, culture, antiquities and transportation in the Tobago Legislative Assembly, told Loop News that connectivity is a big issue.
“We’ve had the perennial problem of connectivity between Trinidad and Tobago and my biggest headache now is making sure we have that connectivity when we need it,” she said.
She said they were having conversations with Caribbean Airlines as well as other operators in the space.
“How can we get a combination of things that improves that connectivity between Piarco and Tobago and lands more flights directly in Tobago and carries most of their passengers to Trinidad,” she said.
In the first year, however, the focus would be on bringing in Tobagonians and Trinidadians, as the stock of rooms is not sufficient to accommodate an influx of foreign visitors in addition to locals.
“Our stock of rooms would be exhausted with just Trinidadians coming. We wouldn’t have to aggressively market to anybody else,” Burris said.
She said cruise operators had approached them about having cruise ships dock during the event to resolve the issue.
The focus is on showcasing Tobago’s culture for Carnival and this may foreshadow the future marketing direction of the island.
Burris said that while the traditional position was to push sun, sea and sand, she thinks the commercialization of culture is what would set the island apart from others in the Caribbean.
“The reality is that we now need to develop our orange economy to be able to market our island. It’s not enough to have these beautiful images, we want to provide an immersive 365 degree experience but first we have to get people here so the focus is on solving that.” declared.
Ultimately, she said, they focus on customer service training and have conversations with the hotel association to encourage members to constantly update and review things like prices. that would encourage visitors while allowing hoteliers to make a profit.
She said they also need to come up with a plan to aggressively target Trinidadians as they are the largest source market by numbers.
“We’ve never really had a targeted marketing campaign for Trinidad; it is always something that we take for granted that they will come here. Now what we need to do is have a conversation and say, hey, when you come to Tobago, here’s what you can do because there are people who think all they can do is to go to the beach, it is not. So that means our own information centers need to be able to guide people, our tour guides and our associations need to be more visible in space so that people have an idea of what I can do, what I can wait for me,” she explained.
She said for the carnival, there would be tourism brand ambassadors visible in space, providing information and handing out a Tobago passport. The passport will allow visitors to collect stamps at events and attractions.
“Just as Trinidadians like to focus on collecting their bands, you have your Tobago passport and we want to encourage people to keep coming back, so in the end when you collect 100 stamps, how can we get you to visit the island?”