Trinidad Express:-Tourism stakeholders are calling for a meeting with the Prime Minister, Minister of Finance and Minister of Tourism to voice their concerns and propose solutions for boosting the tourism sector.
This comes as they say the tourism sector, particularly in Tobago, is on the verge of collapse.
Representatives of the Trinidad Hotels, Restaurants and Tourism Association (THRTA), Trinidad and Tobago Incoming Tour Operators Association (TTITOA) and Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association (THTA) held a news conference at the Hyatt Regency in Port of Spain, as they made their appeal on Thursday.
THTA president Christopher James noted that international visitor arrivals to Tobago have been on a constant decline.
He lamented that, in the last decade, visitor arrivals have dropped significantly, from approximately 88,000 in 2005 to around 19,000 in 2016.
He added that this country receives less than two per cent of the 30 million international visits to the region each year.
“If this continues, we will not have a tourism industry in Tobago,” he said.
James said his 23 years of experience in the sector have made it clear that successive governments have not understood the value of tourism and its role in economic diversification.
THRTA CEO Brian Frontin said part of the problem was insufficient government allocations towards destination marketing and promotion of Trinidad and Tobago.
He said budgetary allocations to the Ministry of Tourism have also been on the decline, from $61 million in 2013, to an estimated $19 million for fiscal year 2017.
By comparison, he said, hotels and guest houses pay tens of millions of dollars in hotel accommodation tax each year.
The associations are requesting that money paid in hotel accommodation tax be invested back into the sector in the form of marketing and promotion.
TTITOA president Lorraine Pouchet said the decline in tourist arrivals has resulted in a decline in business for tour operators and has become an untenable situation.
She said it was time to get serious about tourism as T&T has the potential to be a premier tourist destination. She added that the tourism sector could potentially create more jobs than the energy sector and could provide a much-needed financial boost to the economy.
But, she said, there seems to be no plan take the sector further.
She added that attempts to meet with Tourism Minister Shamfa Cudjoe in the past have not been successful.