The Tobago Tourism Agency Limited (TTAL) was established by the THA as the island’s destination management company in 2017, working closely with the Assembly’s Division of Tourism, Culture and Transportation as its policy implementation agency.
Following the onset of the pandemic and the closure of Trinidad and Tobago’s borders, TTAL has been working tirelessly with Tobago’s tourism industry stakeholders locally, and in key source markets across the globe, to enhance the destination’s competitiveness in the post-COVID era of travel and tourism.
In fact, the Agency’s efforts were recognized on an international scale when Tobago was awarded Silver in the 2021 Travel Industry Club (TIC) Destination Awards held in Germany, recognising TTAL’s evolved strategy in response to COVID-19. This was no small feat for the tiny Caribbean island, as Tobago’s submission surpassed fellow finalists of established tourist destinations such as Columbia and Bavaria.
A renewed focus on health, safety and sanitation is key to slowing the spread of the COVID-19, as well as instilling confidence in the global travel and tourism industry. In this regard, TTAL spearheaded the accreditation of the island’s tourism operators in dual certification with the “Safe Travels” stamp from the World Travel and Tourism Council, and the Healthier Safer Tourism stamp from CARPHA. These safety efforts were underscored by a social media campaign #MaskonTobago, which encouraged tourism stakeholders and visiting locals to adhere to COVID-19 safety protocols.
With the financial challenges faced by Tobago’s local tourism stakeholders during the pandemic, the Agency managed the administration of a Tourism Accommodation Relief Grant (TARG) aimed at enhancing the quality of the destination’s accommodation plant, to allow Tobago to become more attractive and competitive when the borders reopen. TARG as well as the Agency’s ongoing Tourism Accommodation Upgrade Project provided some financial support for stakeholders in their time of need.
The Agency initiated stakeholder engagement programmes to help the destination align with trends emerging after the pandemic, notably the growing demand for sustainable options for travel. By 2022, Tobago’s global reputation as a green destination was better than ever, as the island emerged from the pandemic lockdown with six international eco-awards.
Most notable was Blue Flag and Green Key awards. Tobago created history in 2021 by becoming the first Blue Flag destination in the English-speaking Caribbean, when boat operator Top Catch Charters received the award. Through continuous collaboration the Agency was able to capture international eco-label Green Key for five tourism accommodation properties between April 2021 and January 2022.
As Tobago sought to capitalize on the increased demand for wellness travel stimulated by the stress of the pandemic, the Agency embarked on a multi-phased initiative to develop the local wellness travel niche. The project kicked off with the “Exploring Wellness Tourism 360” 2-day conference in July 2021, followed by capacity building workshops for tourism stakeholders, and ongoing tourism product audits.
At the core of TTAL’s post-COVID product development strategy is a renewed focus on customer service delivery at tourism touch points on the island. TTAL forged a partnership with Uplifting Service – an award-winning global facilitator in customer service - to implement an island-wide revamping of the service culture.
As the Agency continued its efforts to support tourism industry recovery, the organization retained destination awareness through campaigns designed to evolve with the state of the industry a during the pandemic.
#DreamingOfTobago was launched immediately after the border lockdown in 2020 as a message of solidarity that kept Tobago front of mind for travellers until travel resumed. As the travel restrictions began to ease in key source markets, the campaign #TobagoAwaitsYourReturn emerged to reinforce the island’s safety and sustainability with potential travellers. The #TobagoWelcomesYourReturn phase was launched in 2021, amplifying efforts to bolster forward bookings for Winter 2021 flights with returning British Airways and Virgin Atlantic.
Multichannel campaigns were also undertaken in partnership with influential travel media in Tobago’s source markets including Reisen Exclusiv and FVW in Germany, Wanderlust, BBC Wildlife and National Geographic in the UK, and Zoomer Magazine in Canada. Domestically, TTAL partnered with the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association to initiate a dedicated staycation digital campaign to drive awareness of the offerings on the island by the Association's membership.
Despite COVID-19 waves and various travel restrictions, data illustrates there is a positive sentiment for long haul travel from the UK and Germany – Tobago's top 2 international source markets - and travel will rebound in 2023. The Agency continues to seek the sustainable development of the island’s product – and people – to help revive the sector in the wake of the pandemic.