Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Tourism $$ for our taking

 At the risk of perhaps overcooking a long-overdue discussion on the potential impact of tourism to Trinidad and Tobago’s economy, I would like to respond to a letter in yesterday’s Express which cautioned against the unpredictable nature of the tourism sector and, therefore, the dangers of beco­m­ing overly dependent on it. 

While tourist markets will always be dependent on whether people have funds to travel, the volume of such tourists is expanding at an extraordinary rate as countries with ri­sing economies begin to generate incredible numbers of tourists with discretionary wealth. 

Accor­ding to the Econ­­-

o­mist newspaper, in 2013, nearly one in ten international tourists are now Chinese, with 97.3 million outbound journeys a year. In 2013, Chinese tourists spent US$129 billion on travel, outspending Ame­ricans, who only spent US$86 billion.

The number of potential markets available is also growing exponentially, and we will therefore become less and less dependent on traditional tourism flows. 

Tourism has become one of the world’s biggest, most stable and enduring industries. Even during the recent recession, the worst since 1929, Carib­be­an tourism arrivals only declined by some six per cent and are now fully recovered to pre-2008 levels. 

Travel is no longer a luxury preserve of the super-rich, it has almost become a human right, with everyone wanting to explore the planet on which they live. 

According to the World Travel and Tourism Coun­cil and their research partner, Oxford Econo­mics, in 2013, travel and tourism contributed some US$2.2 trillion to global gross domestic product (GDP). Taking the wider supply chain into consideration, i.e., those businesses that feed the actual delivery of tourism to consumers, travel and tourism represent 9.5 per cent of global GDP, provides one in 11 jobs, 4.4 per cent of investment and 5.4 per cent of world exports. This is by no means a capriciously fragile past-time.

Having said all that, overdependence on any given economic sector, particularly one like energy, with its finite resources, is obviously to be avoided. What we are urging is the maximisation of the country’s currently unrealised tourism potential for a better balanced economy.

I totally agree with the need for improved service. Our competition in this shrinking world is not only North America and Europe but increasingly Asia where personal service has become almost a religious experience. 

T&T has huge potential; not only do we have the Carib­bean’s traditional sun, sea and sand but we also have the soft adventure and ecotourism assets countries such as Costa Rica have made such good use of—all spiced with our own special brand of cultural diversity.

John Bell

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