Let Tobago tourism stand alone
Once again, a new Minister of Tourism is talking around the subject of Tobago's tourism industry, without recognising and/or addressing the root problem.
But first things first. The very genesis of the problem, as in so many other things Tobago, is the politico-legal construct called "the country of Trinidad and Tobago" which has held Tobago and its people in a Trinidadian choke hold for over 100 years and has led, on the one hand, to Trinidadians subconsciously believing that Tobago is a part of Trinidad, "some aspect of local government", and on the other hand, to Tobagonians subconsciously believing that they are in the inescapable and beholden grip of a constitutional overlord they refer to as "de central govahment in Trinidad".
The fundamental reality is that Tobago, like Trinidad, like Barbados, Grenada, Dominica, St Vincent, St Lucia, St Kitts, Antigua, is an island in the Caribbean, with a distinct people, a distinct culture, a distinct way of life, a distinct economy. But the politico-legal construct called the country of Trinidad and Tobago has obscured this fundamental reality and has led to a perennial miscellany of misdiagnoses and misdirections in the development of Tobago and its people.
Tobago's tourism industry is one of the many glaring examples. Tourism is an essential contributor to the economy of Tobago. It plays no significant part in Trinidad's economy. Tobago's tourism industry is in competition for the Caribbean tourism market with tourism-oriented island economies such as Grenada, St. Vincent, St.Lucia and the big guns, Barbados and Antigua. Trinidad, and its "tourism product", whatever that may be, is nowhere in that picture.
The root problem to recognise and address, therefore, is that there is no such thing as a Trinidad and Tobago tourism product. Permit me to repeat. There is no such thing as a Trinidad and Tobago tourism product. And there should therefore be no mention of Trinidad whatsoever in the marketing and promotion of Tobago as a tourism destination. But much more importantly, Tobago should enjoy a level playing field in the Caribbean tourism market, including direct international airlift into Tobago, direct access to international capital markets for the development of its tourism plant and of course, unique and independent marketing and promotion of its destination, just like its Caribbean competitor counterparts.
Unless and until the development, marketing and promotion of Tobago's tourism product is totally and completely delinked from Trinidad, and other aspects of the playing field are levelled, Tobago's tourism industry will continue to meander along, an adjunct to a non-existent Trinidad and Tobago tourism product, weekly ministerial visits to Tobago notwithstanding.
Just as an aside, another glaring example of the consequence of this historical Trinidadian choke hold, is the AG's Green Paper on Tobago. The underlying presumption in the AG's Green Paper is that "d central govahment in Trinidad" can determine for Tobago the terms and conditions of Tobago's own internal self-government, based on this politico-legal construct called the country of Trinidad and Tobago. So the Attorney General's Green Paper can tell Tobagonians that the island of Tobago will have a territorial sea of 10 nautical miles, within the territorial sea of the country of Trinidad and Tobago.
But there is no delineation of the territorial sea of the island of Trinidad, within the the territorial sea of the country of Trinidad and Tobago. In other words, the AG's Green Paper is in effect telling Tobagonians that Tobago is an island surrounded by Trinidad!