Trinidad and Tobago, the twin-island Caribbean nation situated off the coast of Venezuela, continues to develop its tourism infrastructure with exceptional results.

International tourists – some 460,000 of them projected for this year – are lured by the Trinidad and Tobago’s beautiful beaches, hiking trails, wildlife preserves, and caves ripe for exploration. Do not forget to add to this the country’s vibrant music and arts scene and reputation for knowing how to party, especially during Carnival.

In 2012, tourism organisations from 27 EU member states unanimously voted Trinidad and Tobago the “Best Tourism Destination”. The highest of honours, this distinction is awarded to countries that comply with principles of fair tourism, ethical tourism, safety standards, and the historic preservation of cultural sites as laid out by the United Nations, UNESCO, and the EU.

Trinidad and Tobago’s focus on sustainability and eco-tourism pr oduces tw o equally important positive outcomes: Firstly, it protects the country’s wetlands, coral reefs, beaches, and ecological biodiversity. Secondly, it renders the country highly attractive to a growing international niche of eco-sensitive travellers.

Tourism trends and forecasts

The 460,000 international visitors expected this y ear r epresent an incr ease of 13 per cent since 2012. Over the next decade, the number of annual visitors is expected to rise to 660,000. The increase will be driven by ongoing initiatives to promote the country’s flourishing creative industries to culturally curious visitors. The government is seeking to implement programmes to improve service and create a surge of hospitality at the recreational facilities which will house and entertain guests.

While nature-focused eco-tourism development is the driving force behind this growth, Trinidad and Tobago is also keen to become a destination for sports tourism. They are hosting more cricket, football, and track and field events and establishing a sports tourism department in the hope of attracting thousands of visitors to these occasions.

Economic impact

Growth in the Travel & Tourism sector is positively impacting Trinidad and Tobago’s economy in the following ways: (all statistics ar e f or 2013 and based on the World Travel and Tourism Council’s 2014 report):

  • GDP Total Contribution: Last y ear Travel and Tourism generated US$2 billion (8.2 percent of GDP) and is forecasted to rise by 3.4 percent per annum to US$2.9 billion in 2024.
  • Employment direct contribution: The industry directly supported 27,000 jobs (4.4 percent of total employment) in 2013 and is expected to rise by 0.9 per cent this y ear and then continue to rise by 0.5 per cent per annum to 29,000 jobs in 2024.
  • Visitor exports: Visitor exports generated US$792 million (4.8 per cent of total exports) in 2013. This is forecasted to gr ow by 1.9 percent per annum, fr om 2014-2024, to US.
  • Investment: Travel & Tourism investment was US$354 million, or 10.7 per cent of total investment in 2013. It should rise by 6.1 per cent in 2014, and then continue to rise by 4.1 per cent per annum ov er the next ten y ears to US$562 million in 2024 (11.1 percent of total).

Discover Chaguaramas

Chaguaramas is a r elatively unknown 14,500 acr e region of tropical mountain forests and secluded coves on the northwestern peninsula of Trinidad and several small islands. It has taken exemplary steps to transform itself into a world-class eco-tourism, business, and entertainment centre.

In 1975, the Chaguar amas peninsula was designated a National Heritage Park in order to protect its biodiversity and preserve ecological, historical and archaeological resources. Now, in accordance with the Chaguaramas Development Authority (CDA)’s strategic plan for 2012-2016, efforts are underway to capitalise on the region’s natural beauty and rich multicultural heritage as a means of fostering sustainable economic development through eco-tourism, sports tourism, and culture tourism.

This has entailed improving existing facilities and building new resorts, hotels, marinas, parks, and recreational and sports facilities, while also bolstering tourism-enhancing sectors such as the service, entertainment, yachting, and organic food industries.

Trinidad & Tobago

Key CDA initiatives include:

  • The establishment of a several boardwalks along popular beaches intended as family-oriented spaces for commerce, recreation, and social engagement
  • Expanding the existing public golf course from 9 to 18 holes meeting championship standards and adding a AAA triple diamond + rated hotel with sophisticated amenities including a spa and residential bungalows, townhouses, and apartments
  • Renovating and upgr ading the 64-r oom Chaguaramas Hotel and Convention Centre to international standards
  • Offering nature trails and tours of spectacular natural sites including the Edith Falls waterfall, the famed nutmeg fields dotted with relics of WWII era bunkers, and the Gasparee limestone caves complete with a sparkling blue grotto.
  • Improving transportation with the establishment of a water taxi service and a parking lot to service ferry-riders
  • Supporting local artists through the refurbishment of Sharc Studios, a recording facility intended for use by the Film Company of Trinidad and Tobago
  • Creating infrastructure such as a deepwater marina and a terminal to support cruise ships and super yachts
  • Supporting the restoration of heritage sites and historical landmarks including an early 20th century whaling station at Porte Baleine and St. Chad’s and an 18th century Anglican church in Tucker Valley
  • Enhancing policing to ensure safety and security

While many of these are already underway, some are still in the planning stages and are awaiting investors to carry them through.

Joint-Venture Partnerships Success to date in Trinidad and Tobago’s tourism industry is largely due to joint-venture development initiatives. This has brought in funding and expertise while allowing the country to maintain control over development activity within its borders. Such cross-border public/private partnerships are facilitating the growth of tourism and its related sectors resulting in increased economic activity and job creation. However, development is still in its infancy and there is room for growth.

Tax incentives and other policies are in place to encourage more joint ventures. In addition, several other factors render Trinidad and Tobago’s tourism industry attractive to investors. These include:

  • A modern international airport with daily flights to and from the US, Canada, Europe, and South America
  • Favourable geographic conditions (the country lies below the hurricane belt)
  • Low energy costs as a result of plentiful oil and gas resources
  • No foreign exchange controls and stable exchange rate

If Trinidad and Tobago continues along its current path of attracting investment in sustainable tourism it has the potential to reach its goal of becoming the pre-eminent tourist destination of the Caribbean.