|Solomon: Opening of Magdalena may lead to increased service from Tobago’s airline partners.|
So, with its first branded, large-sized resort in 12 years, is Tobago ready for further development? Will it walk out of sister island Trinidad’s shadow and stand on its own? Travel Agent spoke with Warren Solomon, director of tourism for Tobago, and got some very interesting answers.
Travel Agent: What does the opening of the island’s first resort in 12 years mean to Tobago’s potential growth?
Solomon: The last resort that opened on Tobago was the Bacolet Beach Club—it opened in 2009 with 25 rooms. The Magdalena Grand Beach Resort is the first branded, large-sized resort in 12 years. This has already caught the eye of some of our airline partners who have long expressed the desire to increase service to Tobago but have felt constrained by the lack of quality, full-service hotel rooms on the island. As a result, Virgin Atlantic will be introducing a second flight to Tobago from London Gatwick this winter.
The Magdalena will also have a tremendous impact on the job market, as there will be a need for qualified staff to run the various operations of the hotel. With the goal being four-star service, a great deal of effort will go into training and development of the staff. In my experience, this tends to have a ripple effect throughout the accommodation sector. Coupled with the national customer service training program, STAR (Service, Training, Attitude, Respect), I am anticipating an enhancement of service delivery across the island.
From a product development perspective, the focus on customer service training and the upgrade of this property represent a major investment by the government of Trinidad and Tobago.
Travel Agent: Why has it taken so long for a new resort to come up in Tobago?
Solomon: The Tobago House of Assembly (THA) recently implemented a land licensing system to make it easier to attract new hotel investment. Six zones have been identified for such development, and once a proposal to build in those zones is received, the review and approval process is a lot smoother. It must be noted that in introducing the land license, the THA had at the forefront that any kind of development must have as little impact as possible on the island’s fragile natural environment.
Travel Agent: Can we expect more development in the near future?
Solomon: It is anticipated that the land license system will open the door for potential investors. We certainly acknowledge that hotel rooms and airlift go hand in hand, which is why the scheduled opening of the MGBR has already had an impact on one major international carrier. When we go to the table to negotiate with other carriers, as we have experienced in the past, this is an issue that is always raised.
There is a critical mass of rooms that is required to attract the attention of wholesalers and airlines. The quality of the available rooms is equally critical. If we can demonstrate that we can fill different cabins of an aircraft and meet the requirements of different types of consumers, then we should be able to attract investors to the island and add to our room count.