Getting to Know Ourselves

A couple of weeks ago, my column touched on ‘Fire in Babylon,’ a new documentary on West Indies Cricket.  In it, I erroneously forgot to mention Clive Lloyd.  As Wesley Francis mentioned in his feedback to me – “Without the vision and astute leadership and counseling of Clive Lloyd, the whole evolutionary process and the revolution of West Indies cricket would not have been, as he continued to modify the preparation and groundwork that was laid out before by Learie Constantine, George Headley, Sir Frank Worrell, to name a few. “

Wesley Francis suggested that Fire in Babylon should form part of the socio-historical curriculum of schools across our region.  On this point, I could not agree with him more.  Few would disagree that West Indies Cricket has done more to establish a West Indian identity than Federation or Caricom.  Sport has accomplished what politics still struggles to do.

Another entity that has played an important role in forming that regional identity is the University of the West Indies (UWI).  Some like me remained at home and just commuted to the St Augustine campus daily and therefore had limited interaction with students from other territories.  Others stayed at one of the Halls of Residence in St Augustine or chose areas of study that required them to relocate to the Bahamas, Jamaica, or Barbados.  Many of these students formed strong relationships with people from neighboring islands that continue to this day.  I sometimes regret not taking an option that allowed me to study in Cave Hill.

Now that the ugly face of airspace protectionism has retreated, we see reduced airfares from Caribbean Airlines alongside REDjet’s relatively low fares.   This is a perfect time to reverse the decline in intra-Caribbean visitors.  Intra – Caribbean travel collapsed from a high of 1.5 million visitors to 566 000 in 2010.  I maintain that as we seek to build bridges across the region, the more we get to spend time with each other – the better!

However, some would say that before we get to know our neighbors, it is wise to get to know ourselves.  To this end, the Ministry of Tourism, the Tourism Development Company Limited, and the Trinidad and Tobago Incoming Tour Operators Association have once again come together to offer us Tour and Explore!  Till the end of August, 20 Tours are being offered at subsidized prices.  Eco-Tours include the Aripo Savannah & Arena Forest; Asa Wright Nature Centre; Bush Bush Nariva; Caroni Bird Sanctuary; Chacachacare; Edith Falls; Gaspare Caves/ Scotland Bay; Kayaking; La Brea Pitch Lake; La Divina Pastora, Debe Doubles & Wildfowl Trust; North Coast Beaches & Avocat Waterfall; Rio Seco Waterfall Adventure; Rock Climbing Point Gourde; Tobago – Buccoo Reef/ Nylon Pool; and Tobago – Island Explorer.

Cultural Tours include the City / Art & Cricket Tour; African History Tour; The French Connection.  Finally, Historical Tours include Historic Lopinot, Herbal Gardens & Caves, and the House of Angostura/ The Central Bank Museum.  The feedback that I have been getting suggests that these tours are all top class.  For Information or tour bookings, ring 714-0473, 714-0474, 363-7604, 313-6654, or email: tourismparktt@gmail.com.

Tourism is not all about first-class trips to distant places, but it starts right here in our own back yard.  Credit must be given to our Tourism Industry decision-makers for embarking on a project where it would be relatively easy to quantify and qualify the return on their investment.  Perhaps this analysis will be made public after the project?  I have made no secret that all too often, decisions on tourism strategy are made by ‘vaps’ rather than by crunching data.  Our neighbors in Grenada realize the value of data and have recently contracted our very own Dr. Keith Nurse to conduct an economic impact assessment of their carnival.  We should be proud of tourism / cultural researchers like Dr. Nurse and should continue to embrace our local talent as we seek to take our destination forward.
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I know of neighboring islands with smaller marketing budgets than ours who manage to fill more incoming planes and more hotel rooms than we do.  They realized that it is not just about the size of the budget but also about its use.

My name is Derren Joseph, and I love my country and my region.  As always, I end by saying that we are so blessed to live in this beautiful land despite our challenges. Let us continue to have the audacity of hope in the future of our beloved country.   

Derren is a travel and tourism consultant. The views and opinions expressed here are solely the writer's views and do not necessarily reflect the views of any company or institution affiliated with the writer.  

Feel free to email Derren at derren43@yahoo.com

You can reach Derren as well at derren@advancedamericantax.com.

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