Our new “Oil” is “Tourism” and this Keith Rowley-led Government better understand that, if they want to provide any kind of hope to this country. There are 3 areas for urgent action: destination marketing, increasing international arrivals and having a well-trained and certified labour supply.
The 2017 budgetary allocation by the Government towards the marketing and promotion of Trinidad & Tobago’s Tourism products was TT$19M (nineteen million TT dollars). When compared to allocations in 2015 of TT$50M (fifty million TT dollars), this represents a significant fall by 62%. Two months ago, in July, the Ministry of Tourism confirmed that only TT$8M of the $19M was actually spent. Spending TT$8M to market a diverse destination such as T&T is a waste of money. You’ve got to either do it properly or not at all. In addition to this lack of spend, the contracts for all of our overseas marketing representatives (except for the UK) were cancelled in October 2016 by the Ministry of Tourism with no replacement providers appointed. Thus, Destination Trinidad & Tobago has NOT been promoted in most of our main tourist source markets for the past year.
Consistent with this lack of spend is the fall in international arrivals. The data says that over the first eight months of 2015 (i.e. by August), we welcomed 300,000 overseas visitors. For a similar period in 2017, overseas visitors has fallen to 275,000, representing an 8% reduction. This has had a direct negative impact on both hotel occupancy as well as room taxation remitted to the Government.
If you combine the reduced budgetary allocation, the lack of destination marketing spend as well as the Government’s continued and prejudicial withholding of GATE reimbursements and recurrent subvention payments to the Trinidad and Tobago Hospitality and Tourism Institute (TTHTI), what emerges is a Tourism Sector which is on the brink of collapse.
To avoid this collapse, the 2018 budget cater for the following:
- Ramp up the destination marketing allocation to the Tourism sector to at least the TT$60M which is remitted annually by hoteliers to the Government as proceeds from the room tax collected every time someone sleeps in a hotel.
- Sufficient allocations must also be provided to the Ministry of Education honour its GATE reimbursement commitments to a number of tertiary level institutions in Trinidad & Tobago.
The budget presentation is really an exercise in accountability. What is needed at stages 2 & 3 are wide collaboration on the plan for the sector and transparency with regard to how the plans will be executed.
Let’s do This … Minister of Finance!