Tourism is an important driver of the Tobago’s economy and will continue to be paramount in the transformation of the island, Secretary of Tourism and Transportation Assemblyman Tracy Davidson-Celestine has said.
She added that all signs suggested that the industry was once again gaining ground and noted that tourism has to be everyone’s business from the smallest to the most senior of adults.
Davidson-Celestine who was presenting a motion on tourism at last Thursday’s plenary sitting of the Assembly said the World Travel and Tourism Council in 2009 revealed that Tobago’s GDP was estimated at $3.153Bn and of that amount tourism’s contribution was $1.164Bn or 36.9 per cent; the sector created 14,000 jobs representing 47.6 per cent of the island’s population.
She said regionally, tourism also accounted for an injection of over US$20Bn into Caribbean economies; “so that one can easily see the magnitude of this industry and its importance to our Caribbean counterparts and in particular Tobago”.
She added that the Caribbean Tourism Organisation’s statistics revealed that in 2012 the Caribbean welcomed nearly 25 million tourists which represented a growth of approximately 5.4 per cent more than in 2011. During 2012 Tobago welcomed 962,883 persons, an overall increase of 4.3 per cent which compared favourably with other Caribbean countries; The Dutch Caribbean received 5.6 per cent while the Spanish-speaking Caribbean 6 per cent.
The Tourism Secretary said amidst these encouraging signs, Tobago was still hard-pressed to recover as it relied heavily on the British Market with an ailing economy and the application of the onerous air passenger duty tax.
She said having recognised the challenges of the British market the Assembly has begun to target new areas such as the Scandinavian countries, Canada and the US. She noted that Americans were coming back to the Caribbean while despite the world economic slowdown Canadians were continuing to travel and as such the signs were positive for an even stronger growth in the coming years.
Davidson-Celestine also disclosed that 50 Nigerian students will soon arrive in Tobago to be trained in tourism, hospitality and culinary skills at the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Institute at Blenheim. She said a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between THTI and Verasys in April 2012 and a team from the Office of the President of Nigeria visited the institution in January to conduct an evaluation of the curriculum and facilities. She added the team left impressed and recommended THTI as an approved institution for training.