How Tobago Is Reaching Out to the U.S. Market

Store Bay is home to one of Tobago’s best unspoiled beaches.
Store Bay is home to one of Tobago’s best unspoiled beaches.

Tobago, the smaller half of the two-island nation Trinidad and Tobago, is looking to reintroduce itself to the United States travel market and making an outreach to boost awareness of the destination with a new logo, slogan and tourism initiatives. Travel Agent recently sat down with Avion Hercules, director of marketing for the Tobago House of Assembly, to discuss the destination’s new marketing initiatives.

In April, Hercules blitzed New York City, meeting with travel agents and the media in her first effort to promote this highly regarded eco-tourism destination. She said during this initial phase of Tobago’s market outreach in North America that her purpose was exploratory and that she was mainly looking to collect feedback from operators and agents on their perceptions of Tobago.

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The new slogan, “Live the Culture, Tobago Style,” is a reflection of the island’s quirky, rather British charm, and is a reflection of what is unique about the island. 

This is where you will find laid-back life in classic Caribbean style that is far off the beaten track. Unlike neighboring islands with their brand-name all-inclusive resorts, here you may head to the unspoiled beaches of Store Bay and Pigeon Point at the southwestern end; the beautiful, secluded coves of the north coast; and, on the eastern side of Tobago, an award-winning tropical rain forest that has been a protected park since 1776, and quaint establishments such as 1950s chemists’ shops in Scarborough, as well as iced-coconut stands around the island. This is where your clients can leave the crowds behind in favor of tree-house restaurants and champagne at sunset.

Fort King George in Scarborough is a historic reminder of Tobago’s British roots.

Fort King George in Scarborough is a historic reminder of Tobago’s British roots.

Hercules says Tobago welcomed 400,000 air and cruise arrivals in 2013, the bulk of whom were from Europe. However, air connectivity from the U.S. has improved with Caribbean Airlines’ daily flight from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and American Airlines’ daily flights from Miami and Fort Lauderdale. What this means is that U.S. visitors can now reach Tobago in a day without having to overnight in Trinidad. On Sundays, Caribbean Airlines has a nonstop flight from JFK to Tobago’s Arthur N.R. Robinson International Airport, and reverse, for even greater convenience. (In addition, JetBlue added daily nonstop service from Fort Lauderdale to Piarco International Airport in Port of Spain, Trinidad, last month and from JFK earlier this year.)

“We are in some discussion with a couple of airlines to get into Tobago from the U.S. and also from Canada,” she tells Travel Agent, noting that Tobago’s number one international market is the United Kingdom.

As far a hotel product goes, Hercules says, “We are anticipating more properties to come on stream. We are looking at investors and are currently in discussions with a few known hotel chains. By the beginning of the winter, we should have some things finalized.” The island has seen only one major beachfront property open in the last 14 years—the luxury Magdalena Grand Beach & Golf Resort, which debuted two summers ago.

Hercules says romance is always a popular niche on the island while eco-tourism and adventure are also two hot tickets on the island. Of the adventure travel offerings, she says the destination’s new nighttime paddle boarding offerings is among the most popular.

“Tobago is a multi-ethnic racial and multi-religious society where the races co-exist in harmony and celebrate the nation’s rich cosmopolitan heritage,” she says. “This is an island of year-round festivals, dive sites, wedding venues, eco-adventure programs, and locals who are anxious to interact with visitors. We have 3,000 guest rooms, of which 1,500 have been inspected and approved, and the rest are in the process of being upgraded. We have 25 luxury villas, shore access everywhere.”

Tourism represents 47 percent of Tobago’s Gross Domestic Product and is the second highest employer on the island.