– Ayanna Kinsale

The Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association (THTA) has partnered with the Caribbean Natural Resources Institute (Canari) to secure funding to enhance its members’ online presence and promote and showcase its sustainable tourism initiatives.

This is being supported as part of the global Blue Tourism Initiative co-funded by the French Facility for Global Environment (FFEM) and implemented in the Caribbean by Canari, a media release said.

Tourism is a vital sector for Tobago’s economic development, driving growth, attracting investments, providing employment and supporting local businesses. However, over the past three years, the tourism small and micro enterprises (SMEs) that form the backbone of this industry were negatively affected by the economic impact of the covid19 pandemic. Lockdowns, travel restrictions and the subsequent sharp decline in visitor arrivals caused local tourism SMEs to face major setbacks and severe revenue losses, the release said.

“The THTA wants to be inclusive and connected to all facets of tourism in Tobago, across all sectors and suppliers. Our aim is to assist every tourism stakeholder to maximise their potential. Caring for the places people like to visit,” said Christopher James, immediate past president of the association and manager of the project.

The one-year project is expected to benefit an estimated 8,000 people, including all members and associate members of the association, as well as all stakeholders that supply the tourism sector in Tobago.

The association sees enhancing digital presence as key to support its members, which are mainly SMEs, to recover and to thrive. It plans to promote sustainable tourism approaches and business practices by creating a comprehensive online ecosystem for local operators and other stakeholders. This online ecosystem will include its website and social media to support online marketing and booking for its members. These technologies not only help businesses to quickly adapt to changing market conditions and customer preferences, but also open new avenues for growth and innovation, the release said.

The centralised website will advertise all available properties in Tobago, promote tour operators and environmental activities, feature craft vendors and provide entertainment schedules, making it a one-stop destination for travellers looking for accommodations, tours and services.

Property owners will also receive training to learn how to manage their bookings efficiently and to better understand market demands using analytics, thereby increasing their capacity and competitiveness.

Taking a holistic approach, the THTA will also integrate farmers, fishermen and other suppliers into the digital ecosystem. The latter will gain the ability to sell their products directly to stakeholders (restaurants, hotel, etc), eliminating intermediaries and streamlining the supply chain, In addition, social media outreach strategies will be used to strengthen the overall brand, improve customer awareness of the brand, increase sales and build customer loyalty.