Show Tobago through our eyes

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Alicia Edwards, President of Tobago Tourism Agency Ltd – THA

Tobago Tourism Agency Ltd (TTAL) President Alicia Edwards believes the island should be shown to the world through the eyes of Tobagonians.

On Tuesday, TTAL’s 11-member board of directors, who were appointed in March, hosted a Tourism Partners Forum at the Shaw Park Cultural Complex.

In his preamble, Edwards touched on some of the issues affecting the industry: “Some of them are structural, some of them are hampered by the governance relationship between TT, some are hampered by political will, some of them have to do with our own cultural issues and inhibitions.”

She said covid19 had exacerbated a situation where industry had been in decline on the island for some time and for all sorts of reasons.

Going forward, she said her team’s focus areas include growth, competitiveness, sustainability and collaboration.

She said all existing strategic partnerships are being reviewed “to determine if they are working and, if appropriate, establish new ones in all source markets.”

Edwards added: “We’re looking at overseas representative contracts, airline contracts and all the things we’ve spent to make sure we’re really getting what we pay for.”

She said there was a need to refine the brand image and brand message to make it more authentically Tobagonian.

“It’s hard to see my Tobago – the way my island is sometimes portrayed. It’s hard to see the beauty of my island in how we’ve sold Tobago in some ways, and so we want to show Tobago from the perspective of a person from Tobago.

“Most of us are Tobago by birth, Tobago by boat, or Tobago because we fell in love or because we had a dumpling in our left hand.” Edwards said it was important to “sell the island in a way that reflects the best of who we are”.

She said there was a need for more emphasis on the domestic tourism market. “Covid19 has taught us that while it is good to look outside, there are also opportunities, much more financially viable during the period of border closures.”

Another pillar of the work, she said, is to stimulate demand in the various markets of the diaspora.

“We think the outdoors is important to attract people from this Tobago and Tobago community who live outdoors and would come home for various events and be a point of contact.”

She said the council will seek to continue a number of key industry development programs that were launched under their predecessors.

She said the main source markets they intend to focus on over the next few months are the United States and Canada.

“People in the know may know that we have a representative in Canada, but we haven’t done much in the United States and now with the CAL flight from JFK (airport) to Tobago, we are in the process of Hire a U.S. representative to start driving and stimulating business in this market because it’s the airfare we’re not paying for.

The agency, she said, is in talks with Virgin Atlantic and British Airways regarding their arrangements and specifically to make better use of their marketing allocations under these contracts.

“People in the know may also be aware that in the airline contracts the agency has with Virgin and BA, there is a provision for marketing. This provision has not been adequately consulted and has not been fully and correctly used. This is something we would like to make sure we use fully in the coming year. We had discussions with (the German airline) Condor.

She said there was a draft contract on the table and they had started taking reservations. “We are working with Condor to make sure we have a return from visitors from this part of the world.”

Discussions with Caribbean Airlines, she said, are continuing in terms of domestic arrangements and access for visitors from nearby islands.

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