Letter to the editor: Tobago’s tourism heading for a virtual crash

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – The Division of Tourism and Transportation of the Tobago House of Assembly announced, “they are banking on the Internet to expose and encourage more visitors to the island.”

Warren Solomon, director of tourism had the following to say, “the environment is right to truly exploit the Internet as a main advertising and marketing channel for the island. One just has to look at the broadband penetration rate worldwide to see that everyone is connected, even the penetration rate in TT has skyrocketed within the past two years.”

With all due respect to Mr.Solomon, I found this analysis extensively lacking in competence and understanding. He is right that everybody is connected today, I also agree with him that you must have an Internet presence in todays marketplace. However, what Mr.Solomon and the THA do not realise is that just having an Internet presence does not assure you that people will actually find you or search you. People are more likely to research the destinations that are well known, popular and talked about. Trinidad and Tobago are not well known and talked about in the international arena, except among our diaspora. The fact still remains as I have said in previous articles, TT must expose themselves to their potential markets, in addition to the Internet, increasing their potential marketability.

Another fault with the THA’s thinking is gaining worldwide exposure by the Internet, again, this is only partly true, what you have is a worldwide presence, and it is questionable how exposed we really are. Their should be a greater focus on markets that are realistically within our range, where we have airlift to and from. How many tourist do you really think the internet will bring us from Australia or Asia? IF they can even manage to find their way here.

What the THA have themselves forgotten is that the Tourism Development Company of Trinidad and Tobago (TDC), launched a similar interactive website two years ago, exposing both Trinidad and Tobago, boasting the same potency claims the THA is now making. The Trinidad and Tobago website is one of the best in the world, and certainly the best among the rest of the Caribbean. What meaningful results did that website bring Trinidad and Tobago? Why are we still lagging behind the rest of the Caribbean if the Internet presence is so penetrating? Tobago is also very well represented on this website, in addition to already having their own., yet they are continuously crying out of historically low occupancy rates even during the height of their tourism season. A new Tobago website will not hurt, but they cannot do better than what is already present.

Unless the TDC and THA heed the call of industry stalwarts for a much more serious advertising and marketing program, this website, like the World Cup, Summits, international media write-ups, and numerous road shows, will suffer the same failed faith.

A website and Internet presence does not guarantee potential clients will look for you, you must get them excited about you. They need a push, they need encouragement, they need to have some prior knowledge of you, before you can maximise the potential of the Internet.

David Maundy

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