Tourism in Las Vegas and Trinidad

By Derren Joseph
October 12, 2010

Las VegasOne of the top stories in last Sunday’s New York Times was about the tourist Mecca of Las Vegas facing its deepest slide since the 1940s. As I read the story, I reflected on what is happening in our tourism accommodation sector here at home. Let us first touch on what is happening in Las Vegas. Firstly, visitor numbers are down as its usual customers cut back on recreational travel which is natural during a recession. Secondly, real estate and room rates are down. Thirdly, there is rising tourism unemployment as Nevada’s unemployment rates are now the highest in the US. In short, the overall tourism economy in the state of Nevada is under pressure.

Let us now return to Trinidad. Firstly, an article in the business section of another newspaper two Thursdays ago, clearly demonstrated that starting from 1995, visitor arrivals to Trinidad and Tobago showed an upward trend, peaked in 2005 and since then, have been in decline to 2009. So with these numbers, we immediately dismiss one myth. Unlike Las Vegas, our tourism decline predates the current global economic turmoil. The cause of the decline in arrivals may not just be due to external forces.

Secondly, we are similar to Las Vegas in that there is expanding room stock with falling room rates. In Las Vegas, the City Center recently opened. It is the largest privately financed construction project in United States history. It was built by MGM Resorts and the government of Dubai, and is a US$8.5 billion labyrinth of hotels, casinos, retail malls, meeting rooms, auditoriums and spas spread across 76 acres with 16 million square feet of floor space. Conceived before the economic downturn, it opened last December, and dropped 5 000 new hotel rooms into the city when some of the older properties had been struggling. Another 2 500 rooms are expected this December. Room rates have understandably been weak. In Trinidad, room rates have been weakening as falling visitor arrivals have combined with the opening of the Hyatt Regency, the Carlton Savannah, the Hilton Hotel expansion etc.

Thirdly, our post 2008 slowdown in tourism related construction and the continued post 2005 decline in visitor occupancy would understandably impact on tourism related employment. The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) study done in 2008 in association with Oxford Economics, estimated Trinidad and Tobago tourism GDP at 10.6% (just over US$ 2 billion) and tourism related employment at about 88 000. I would be interested in seeing what the 2010 tourism GDP generated from these Tourism Satellite Accounts (TSA) look like as I suspect that the slowdown in visitor numbers, construction projects and employment have been negatively impacting our tourism GDP numbers as well.

I believe that the situation with our overall “Room Stock” is noteworthy. In the late 1990s and the earlier part of the last decade, room stock in Port of Spain in particular, was tight as demand generally exceeded supply. Many of us know of international companies operating in Trinidad, who had problems finding hotel rooms for their visiting professional staff even during (so called) off peak times of the year (that is, outside of Carnival etc). So these companies would pay the monthly rent for a furnished apartment which would be empty most of the month – just in case someone from the overseas Head Office, wanted to visit their Trinidad operation. Today one can argue that overall room supply has increased, as now more apartments and more hotel rooms are available given the number of new projects over the past decade. But demand has decreased as overall visitor numbers have declined. Understandably, today some accommodation providers are really feeling the pinch.

The real question is – what do we do about it as an industry?

Firstly, we must recognize the root causes and for those in the industry for a long time, they know that the root causes are complex. Until the complexity of these causes are properly understood, any proposed solutions risk being partial solutions and therefore ineffective. At a time when both government and private sector purses are not exactly full, we could ill afford to spend money on partial fixes. Secondly, the industry itself must come together and collectively agree a solution and entities such as the new Tourism Standing Committee are very well placed to take this forward.

Tourism can offer us a meaningful and sustainable inflow of hard currency but in Trinidad and Tobago, it is a very challenging eco system to manage.

My name is Derren Joseph and I love my country. As always, I end by saying that despite our challenges, we are so blessed to live in this beautiful land. Let us continue to have the audacity of hope in the future of our beloved country.

10 thoughts on “Tourism in Las Vegas and Trinidad”

  1. Comparing tourism in T&T to Las Vegas is like comparing oranges to apples. There simply is little simarilarity.An analysis of the profiles of the visitors to T&T would probably indicate that most of the “tourists” are returning Trinis on vacation. Tobago probably attracts “real tourists”, but compared to neighbouring islands, a minimal number.
    T&T has acquired a very negative image abroad as the countries which supply our tourists have all issued travel warnings on T&T and its crime problem.
    T&T has a major problem with safety and service. Having travelled to tourist destinations all over the world, I can say with validity and reliability that T&T offers the worst service, accompanied by worker attitudes which leave a lot to be desired.Unless T&T cleans up its crime image and teaches its tourism workers the difference between service and servitude,the industry will continue to decline.
    T&T is not a very difficult “eco system” to manage.It simply lacks competent managers.

“T&T has acquired a very negative image abroad, has a major problem with safety and service,offers the worst service, accompanied by worker attitudes which leave a lot to be desired.
T&T is not a very difficult to manage.It simply lacks competent managers.”

    Ungrateful non-patriotic frauds like T-Man ,never ceases to amaze me folks. I am beginning to think that many like him spent a lifetime drinking on the ‘poisons of malcontent,’ and it can never leave their blood, even if you give him a Corlilee / Bygan bush, laden with Epsom salt,Brook-lax, and senna leaves purge daily, for the rest of his life.
    He used up some 5000 words ,castigating the writer for as he claimed, attempting to compare T&T with Vagas ,which is really laughable, unless one never finished Standard 2 comprehension in the Mattlot Primary School Trinidad- of which I now suspect of T-Man , the king of twisted logic .
    Simultaneously ,in typical pompous fashion , he tried to impress us how globally travelled he was – as if anyone cared. Then to cap it off ,he wish to I am almost certain, bring in another European to rectify our tourist problem. Hey T-Man why don’t you wait for the rest of your government’s term, to see if crime will fall drastically , as envisage under COP Gibbs ,the Edmonton security expert, huh?
    In the mean time , in this balanced ,and well written article , all cousin Darren attempted to do was give us a broad over view, as to global economic trends, and juxtapose that with our telling situation here, then concluded in and obvious statement that the same T-Man with his own self important diatribe , implicitly agreed it , by saying “The cause of the decline in arrivals may not just be due to external forces.” Take a bet folks , if Uncle Shah was the author of this piece , you would have seen instead how this groveling tribalist, feet kisser would have jumped around in his freezing Toronto apartment , in praise . For the record T-Man even your college freshman daughter would tell you, that if the developed Industrial states gets a fresh cold , developing Southern over dependent ones like ours would get a pneumonia , and tourism is no exception.
    Still trying to figure out why the richest English speaking country in the world cannot succeed? Then look no further than T-Man ,and his types folks . Here is the pattern ,in case you did not notice. They despise everything African to it’s core , and so have led the cause, at every opportunity ,to see Tobago remain a backward down heap of the Caribbean. Guess what, Barbados is 50 miles bigger, but has an efficient hospital unlike Tobago , and with Tourism their economy is on par with T&T, yes? Hey T- Man tell your leaders, that no one in Barbados present regime ,cares what Errol Barrow , Grantley Adams , and Tom Adams did before they came to power, it all about moving forward.
    Jamaican Yardees, are a global leader when it comes to violent crimes , and is one notch above Haiti when it comes to citizens living below the poverty line , but leads the Caribbean- especially Trinidad and Tobago- in terms of tourism, ask yourself why. Jamaicans are patriotic ,and even through social problems might force many to appear to hate each other, would not harm a tourist , as they do not have oil, and natural gas , to depend on , or a myriad of ego inflated , divisive ,race mongrels , and country haters to contend with.
    So T- Man you folks want people to come here in your country to visit the Caroni Bird Sanctuary , and World famous La Brea Pitch Lake, then get stuck in traffic because you choose to pander to 15 greedy land owners , by halting the construction of a rapid rail, as you sit in the London Metro, Toronto Metro, Zoo York MTA , and Euro rails huh?
    You social miscreants wish to only focus on low end criminals in the streets of Never Dirty Morvant , and Mt Dor Champ Fleurs , but are totally against the purchase of modern drug, and illegal weapons interdiction Coast guard patrol boats to our country , yes?
    You denounced the push on events tourism ,and sees it as a fantasy. You are against the development of our infrastructure ,to end flooding,beautifying ,and restructuring poor backward , unsightly neighborhoods, I see.
    You are against any form of job stimulation exercises , be it Smelter plant, land liberalization to encourage the landless to grow food to replace the voids left by you and your once escaping cousins. You are against any form of private business economic initiatives outside the useless importation of cheap products from Asia , Europe and America enterprises ,they seem to favor . You enjoy seeing the tribalism at play , where by local business only employ folks that look like they are while demanding all the governmental spoils that can accrue.
    You choose to continue spending billions to fill the pocket of London Law Lords, while sabotaging your local Judiciary and National based Caribbean Appeals court, due to alleged fear of bias against – your guess is as good as mine, as more more Africans are incarcerated across the entire Caribbean than any other race . You see land tax on the nuvo rich , growing oligarchic land owing tribe , as discriminatory, and so want business as usual while dreaming about change , correct?
    You’ve held firmly to 14th century educational system favored by the PNM , and think that you too can work magic to get to first world status , or look out only for the interest of the tribe , while engaging in useless , grand stage media posturing,and that is the way to rebuild a country? If so . think again. Nation building is never easy , or put differently , is not the job for the intellectually lazy, socially immoral,disingenuous , or tribalist that cares little for the other , while treating a small group within the global village as their lifetime gods.
    I stand corrected.

  3. Neal has once again reached the crescendo of his mental masturbation.At least one can say that he is successfully warding off alzheimer’s disease. His response is his typical smorgmasboard of bacchanalian pepperpot, spiced up with his usual doses of false indignation, race, phoney patriotic rantings, and misdirected, tribal accusations.
    This misleader is actually suggesting that I took issue with the article comparing tourism in Las Vegas to Trinidad because of the race of the writer. I do not pretend to know who Darren Joseph is. He could be black, white , brown of green: for all I care. The fact is that his article attempts to make a lame comparison between tourism in two very different places.
    Raffique Shah is drawn into Neal’s stew of mostly incomprehensible outrageous speech.I am an objective observer. I seldom agree with Shah’s columns.Neal is so obsessed with things tribal that he iterjects tribal motives to everyone. He probably has no mirrors in his house!
    Neal, as well as the writer, should have learned in elementary school that when comparing and contrasting,the appropriate of the objects is a major consideration.

  4. It would be different if Vegas would have been compared to Havana before the embargo, but to compare to TNT makes no sense. TNT tourism is not based on gambling. Most visitors to TNT have some family link to TNT. One is in the middle of the desert, while the other is composed of two islands. In normal economic times, the city of Las Vegas probably grosses more annual revenue than the country of TNT. In normal economic times, Las Vegas is much more of a draw to international travelers than TNT part of the reason for that is that it is in the United States. As other states are gearing up to add gamming to their local economies, cities like Las Vegas and Atlantic City are going to have to add something else.
    TNT has many faults that finicky international travelers take into account when planning a vacation.

  5. great feedback guys but the article was meant to focus on demand / supply shifts in the accommodation sector

    the title may have been misleading which is why the guardian probably changed it before publishing it but i still believe that the superficial changes in the demand-supply balance do resemble each other

  6. Trinidad and Tobago are beautiful islands. I agree with T-man comparing Las Vegas to Trinidad is like comparing apples and oranges. Unlike other caribbean islands Trinidad does not have to depend on tourism to increase its ecomony God has bless that country with many natural resoures. Oil, the pitch lake,bird santuary; in Tobago the coral reef, nylon pool, the beaches and the fun loving people of both islands. What I see that is going on in our country is this crime and kidnapping that has been going on for a long time. We have got to get that under control if we want tourism to improve in our island as those beautiful hotels will remain empty and only will be occupied for carnival. I believe the underlying problems is drug trafficking and jobs for our youths. Right now Trinidad is one of the few island if not the only one that is educating our young people at a University level. We should be very proud of that and proud of our government for taking care of the youths. We just need the business sector to open their doors and provide jobs for them. Going back to the tourism..we have to train our citizens and those of course working in the tousrist industry HOSPITALITY..I think the mentality of the people we don’t need the tourist we have our oil,pitch and money is flowing down here. That’s true but not all of us work in those industries. Some of us need the tourist sector to feed our families and those of us living abroad will like to bring our friends to those beautiful new hotels and show off our country and its lovely diverse people. I remember I came to Trinidad one summer and went into a store on Fredrick St. not one of the employees said hello or greeted you with a smile. These things don’t draw people to you or your country if you are trying to build a tourism industry. I suggest one that we get the crime under control and that begins with the gov’t and the corruption in our police departments. Secondly, I think our head of tourism should visit Jamaica and see how to cater to tourist. God Bless You All and as always God continues to bless Trinidad And Tbbago. LOVE ALL

  7. My response to all this clatter, is that Tourism will continue to decline. The global depression will continue for the next decade until we decide to change our attitude. These youths of today will not understand Mr. Shah statements but rest assured he addresses all topics and is well informed of the global problems. As long as natural resources continue to deppreciate we will continue to decline on this planet. Refering to James Kunstler book (The Long emergency) we will soon find ourselves staying home and cultivating our lands and saving on what left of our depleted natural resources. As for Las Vegas it will soon decline rapidly and as I write all the casinos in other areas are practically empty. Change is coming its just how we deal with this rapid decline which no politician is willing to be honest about. The world cannot continue consuming at this pace with finite resources, therefore something has to give and it will be a humble standard of living for everyone. So get ready to start planting your food since the supply in these large countries are decling and inflation is going up, just look at the weather pattern and the destruction of crops. Tourism will be the last thing on anyone mind…

  8. Spot on Victoria, we Trinis need to send our Tourism Minister, and Hotel / Guest House GM’s to Jamaica , so that they can learn how the extremely friendly folks of that Caricom island ,do this hospitality business.
    While we are at it we too can learn a thing or two about crime control, so that our murder rates of 500 per year, can catch up with their 5000 plus yearly.
    As an addendum, we can check out their athletics sporting experts , to garner info on the types of ‘Dasheens’ they feed their runners, so that we too can get a chance at winning a few gold medals in future Olympics, and other sporting events, in similar manner to Hasley Crawford some 34 years ago.

  9. There are so many problems going on in Trinidad, I dont even know wher to start. Two suggestions in the article are no brainers. If one of these tourism officials take a 45 minute flight to St Martin of for that matter a 15 minute flight to Barbados they can learn a thing or two. But that would be too reasonable for these folks. Everytime I visit Trinidad the contrast is so amazing. We got everything you can ask for, yet there is so much missing. Cannot figure why. Maybe that’s the reason. We are self distructing. The indifference to crime escalation is amazing. For the life of me I don’t understand why crime is allowed to spiral out of control. The level of violent crime in addition to the crooked business sector, the thuggery of everyday craftsmen and the list can go on an on…creates a toxic environment. These behaviors are passed on to the younger generation which will eventually take it to another level. So Trinis, enjoy what’s left of paradise, while it last.

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