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Declaring My Domestic Focus
Posted: Thursday, July 1, 2010

By Derren Joseph
July 01, 2010

One of the bibles of UK based travel industry professionals is the TTG or the Travel Trade Gazette. While in the UK, I worked in Thomas Cook Signature and British Airways Holidays and it was almost required reading for those of us keeping track of trends and related industry news items. There was a recent headline in the TTG that grabbed my attention – "Industry 'stunned' as new tourism minister declares domestic focus".

The article goes onto quote Tourism Minister John Penrose who explained that domestic tourism faced more difficulties, including how to go about raising standards of service and skills. Understandably, this was not well received by stakeholders in the outbound sector. It is a 180% shift from the position adopted by the Tourism Minister under the previous Labour Government. Why this shift in focus?

As I previously mentioned, the new Tourism Minister is the MP for an area in Somerset that benefits significantly from domestic tourism. More importantly however, the data demonstrates that in the UK, domestic tourism makes up nearly 60% of the entire tourism economy (according to Tourism Alliance). So in a bid to grow tourism GDP and employment, it is somewhat logical that the new Minister focuses on domestic tourism especially given the issues facing the global economy.

It would be interesting to know what the numbers are for Trinidad and Tobago, because if they are similar in that domestic tourism is as significant a contributor to direct tourism GDP, then a similar strategy could be considered among the available options. The idea is to craft a tourism growth strategy that derives from robust quantitative and qualitative analysis that is designed to drive GDP and employment. Our new Tourism Ministers here in Trinidad and Tobago have mentioned their intention to establish an official Trinidad Tourism Standing Committee to guide the development of the industry. This Committee would include both public and private sector players which should allow for greater participation of citizens in charting the way forward.

Of course, it is no secret that I have consistently advocated the domestic tourism cause. In that context, I believe that among the obstacles for this new Committee to consider is the absence of easily accessible and accurate information. Not just information on the many available tours, sites and attractions but easily accessible information on nearby accommodation for those of us who want to overnight in various parts of our country. A one stop shop for information is sorely needed not just by our overseas visitors but moreso by us locals.

At the moment, day trips are quite common, but with more easily accessible information on accommodation providers, I could see an increase in overnight trips that would especially benefit our many beautiful rural communities. Among the many local websites that I frequently explore, I have recently discovered For those without internet access, the property manager is Wendell Taylor and he is contactable on 710 7098. The simple website advertises two beautiful villas nested high in the hills around Maracas Bay. The result was that our family spent Labour Day / Father's Day weekend, enjoying what has to be one of the best views we have ever seen. Another interesting website with local tours and sites of interest is This site includes multimedia clips of our local animals and scenery but strikes me as still under construction.

For those of us who have enjoyed weekends in guesthouses on the sea shore itself, being up in the mountains is an experience unlike any other. The fresh mountain air, the sounds of the birds and monkeys and simply enjoying fresh spring water made it a weekend to remember. I also took the weekend to help familiarize our sons with our Trini folklore as we enjoyed reading Gerard Besson's Folklore and Legends of Trinidad and Tobago. A book that helped us better connect with the quiet rural surroundings of the small hillside community and better root ourselves in this magical land of ours.

Our smaller guesthouses and villas along Trinidad's north and east coasts as well as those all over Tobago help us to experience our country's treasures in a more profound way than is possible with quick day trips or excursions. Let us keep this in mind as we enter the July – August period and are looking for activities to do with our children.

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 our country, as we embark upon the next chapter in our nation's history.

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