The award of World’s Best Tourist Destination will significantly assist in branding destination Trinidad and Tobago globally. We must change the perception of our country in the overseas markets. We must celebrate our country and work hard to sell our country abroad. It is anticipated that this award will open us to untapped European markets that are perhaps weary of the traditional leisure destinations and desire a more exciting vacation experience.
Honorable Kamla Pershad Bissessar –Prime Minister of Government of Republic of Trinidad and Tobago
Date: Wednesday October 19, 2011
Venue: Regency Hall- Hyatt Regency Trinidad
I am indeed truly humbled and deeply honoured to be standing here today to accept, on behalf of the People of Trinidad and Tobago, the World’s Best Tourism Destination Award for 2012 from the European Union Council on Tourism and Trade. A non-governmental organisation, this body has a wide ranging membership of tourism representatives within the European Union.
We were also declared the World’s Favourite Cultural Destination in 2012 by the European Union Council on Tourism and Trade.
It is my understanding that this award was unanimously given to Trinidad and Tobago primarily for our history of impressive cultural festivals, environmental conservation and biodiversity protection amongst other factors.
It is not an award that is traditionally given to well-established tourism destinations but it is the highest honour awarded to non-European Union countries that have embraced sustainable tourism as a tool for cultural and social development and that respect and preserve their cultural and natural heritage.
I extend my heartfelt thanks to the European Union Council on Tourism and Trade for having us join other distinguished winners of this award such as the United Arab Emirates, Syria and South Koreea.
But moreover, I thank the Council for recognising what most of us fail to acknowledge and value. And this is … Trinidad and Tobago is brim-full with tourism potential.
We are not the traditional sun, sea and surf destination. What differentiates us from the rest of our Caribbean neighbours is our diverse and rich natural, cultural and built heritage.
This People’s Partnership Government is seriously committed and dedicated to the development of the tourism industry in Trinidad and Tobago. Tourism is an incredibly important pillar in our national economic diversification effort.
We are not paying “lip service” to the industry as some may have done in the past. For too long tourism has been looked down on as a second class service sector.
We recognise that tourism is a business and fiercely competitive. Tourism requires skills, talent, enterprise and more importantly the support of government.
The award of World’s Best Tourist Destination for 2012 is important for several reasons.
Firstly, it facilitates the formation of closer linkages with Europe for tourism, trade and investment possibilities. The European continent, as in its colonial past, is a formidable trading partner especially with the fall of communism and the rise of new economic powers.
Europe is, and will certainly continue to be, a cornerstone for our international business.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The economic and social advancement of this beautiful twin island Republic of ours depends to a large extent on how well we develop and harness our resources. And one such untapped resource is that of tourism.
The award of World’s Best Tourist Destination will significantly assist in branding destination Trinidad and Tobago globally. We must change the perception of our country in the overseas markets. We must celebrate our country and work hard to sell our country abroad.
It is anticipated that this award will open us to untapped European markets that are perhaps weary of the traditional leisure destinations and desire a more exciting vacation experience.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
An important opportunity that this award presents is a platform to advance the commitments of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).
As many of you may or may not be aware, in 2008 Trinidad and Tobago, along with its neighbours in the rest of the region, embarked upon a reciprocal trade agreement with one of our largest trading partners – the European Union (EU). The signing of the EPA signalled a shift in our trade and economic development.
We are now required to open our markets to Eastern Union manufacturers and service providers; but the EPA also provides market access for our country’s export of services to the European Union.
The Economic Partnership Agreement also speaks to specific disciplines on tourism services because of its importance to the social and economic development of the European Union and the Caribbean. These rules are complemented by a commitment to legally binding open market conditions for each other. For instance, the Europe Union has made commitments for travel agencies, tour operators, tourist guides services.
Trinidad and Tobago, on the other hand, have made commitments in relation to hotels and restaurants, marina services and spa services.
The EPA also includes measures that would make it easier for European Union investors to invest in the Trinidad and Tobago. This award, then, will provide a platform to attract increased investment and to promote growth and development in the tourism sector. The Economic Partnership Agreement is, therefore, rendered more relevant, more strategic and more focused on deliverables.
Honorable Prime Minister Kamla Pershad Bissessar receives WORLD BEST TOURIST DESTINATION AWARD for 2012.
The World’s Best Tourism Destination award will, moreover, engender a measure of national pride amongst our citizenry and raise the level of public confidence in Trinidad and Tobago as a tourist destination.
We should be proud of our country and its tourism potential. We have so much to be proud of, so much to share with each other, and so much to show off to the rest of the world. Let us not doubt or question our intrinsic value.
In closing, ladies and gentlemen, I must take a moment to publicly acknowledge the hard work and sacrifices of our tourism community … the stakeholders in our midst. The last few years have been quite challenging for all in the tourism industry.
But rest assured that the tourism industry will get the backing it needs.
But we cannot do it alone. We have all to work together. The private sector in the lead but with government acting as a facilitator; supporting every step of the way.
I want to urge you to continue working with commitment, energy and enthusiasm for the betterment of the tourism industry.