TRINIDAD and Tobago has been voted the World's Best Tourist Destination for 2012 and has also been declared the Favourite Cultural Destination in 2012.
The announcement was made on October 9 when tourism organisations from 27 European Union member states voted unanimously during the Autumn Meeting of the European Union Council on Tourism and Trade in Bucharest, Romania.
The designation of the World's Best Tourist Destination is the highest honour to be awarded for a country's achievements in tourism.
A four-member team from the European Council, led by the Minister of Energy of Romania and the Council Vice-President, arrived in Trinidad on Saturday to present the award to the Government and People of Trinidad and Tobago.
In a statement yesterday, Minister of Tourism, Dr Rupert Griffith, said he received the news on October 10.
"We are, actually, the first country in the Western Hemisphere to receive such an award," Griffith said.
"I was also honoured and humbled to be inducted (on Sunday) as an honorary member of the European Union Tourism Academy. All of this augurs well for Trinidad and Tobago as we strive to brand Trinidad and Tobago as a premier destination in the Caribbean region."
The Best Tourist Destination award is offered to countries that have complied with the United Nations Tourism Division, UNESCO and the European Union on Tourism and Trade's principles "on fair tourism, ethical tourism and safety standards and the historic preservation of cultural sites".
On the debate for the award, Dr Anton Caragea, president of the European Union Council on Tourism and Trade (EUCTT), presented a report titled: "Trinidad and Tobago — A Success Story in Tourism".
Among the reasons for the award of World's Best Tourist Destination for 2012 to Trinidad and Tobago, Caragea highlighted the respect for cultural patrimony and traditions "in offering to tourists a possibility to participate in impressive paraphernalia festivals such as Holi, Hosay, Divali, Corpus Christi, Eid-ul-Fitr, Tobago Heritage Festival, Tobago Fest and Trinidad's greatest show on earth (Carnival)".
T&T's dedication to the protection of the environment, especially along the east coast, the wetlands, beaches and ecological and geographical biodiversity was also hailed.
Caragea also praised the range of activities which include wildlife photography in places such as El Tucuche Reserve, Valencia Wildlife Sanctuary, Caroni Bird Sanctuary, cave exploration at Gasparee Caves, cycling and hiking at Argyle Waterfall and kayaking at Paria Bay and Tobago.
The EUCTT was established in 2005 and its member countries include Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Spain and Sweden among others.
The award has previously been presented to Syria in 2007, Turkey in 2008, United Arab Emirates in 2009 and the Republic of Korea (South Korea) in 2010.