In light of all the latest developments internationally on the economic and tourism front, coupled with bad strategic planning from Trinidad’s Ministry Of Tourism and the Tourism Development Company, it appears imminent that Tobago’s tourism sector is heading for a collapse. With Tobago’s hotel occupancy rate now at 30 percent, and this is the peak of their tourism season, there is cause for severe alarm. Unless the financial stability of Tobago’s hotel owners and the tourism industry is as guaranteed as death, Tobagonians are headed for very hard times that will result in an uncomfortable pattern of lifestyle changes.

It is imperative that tourism officials urgently come to reality. With the misguided and self-destructive “Fantasy Island” strategy of attempting to position Trinidad as the business and convention capital of the Caribbean, where does that leave Tobago? What is being done to alleviate the immediate needs of the majority of Tobagonians dependent on tourism for their livelihood and protect the hotel industry from collapse? The historically false promises and unyielding policies of the Tourism Development Company (TDC) cannot be tolerated anymore.

According to a newly released document by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), “the current global economic slowdown which brought the growth of international tourism to a standstill in 2008, now threatens to reverse the historic four-year gains made by the industry in foreign travel.” Pay attention tourism officials, this UNWTO body is a credible and legitimate institution, does the TDC and its advisors have a better or more credible understanding than this international body, which is comprised of the world’s leading professionals? If they did, Tobago’s tourism industry would not have been in constant turmoil.

“The collapse of financial markets, sharp increases in commodity and oil prices and volatile exchange rate fluctuations combined to force a one per cent decline in international travel in the six months from July, a trend that is expected to continue in 2009,” the UNWTO said. The report predicts continued stagnation or decline for this year and beyond, but noted that the high degree of economic uncertainty makes predictions of international travel difficult.”

Trinidad’s Ministry Of Tourism and the Tourism Development Company is claiming that business tourism is booming worldwide. Again to Tobago’s detriment, the real facts as stated by the UN are being denied and ignored. Tourism cannot move forward with the “Fantasy Island” thinking and planning.

It is worthy to note the UN’s real time expectations of “the reversal of tourism gains over the last four years.” If Trinidad’s Ministry Of Tourism and Tourism Development Company are in touch with the reality of what is actually transpiring in the international community, and, in particular, the business world, they would not pursue as their main focus a business tourism strategy because all businesses are in major cutback mode. The government should understand that as it is in the same predicament.

Tourism officials must stop their “Fantasy Island” thinking and planning mentality. Lives are dependent on a functioning and stable tourism sector. Tobago can no longer tolerate the TDC’s wasting of tax dollars on strategies that will not help now or even in the future. Tobago needs a solution that will bring stability to its tourism now. It is unacceptable to say this is an international problem and nothing can be done about it, something can be done about it, but not business tourism.

Like the United State of America, change must now come to our tourism department.