The Cascadia Hotel and Conference Centre is located 9 minutes from the capital, Port of Spain, and offers accommodation and facilities catering for both business and leisure travellers. Barry Bedasie, the hotel’s general manager and vice-president of the Trinidad Hotels, Restaurants and Tourism Association, spoke to The Report Company about what needs to be done to boost Trinidad and Tobago’s image as a tourism destination, and what the country has to offer to visitors.
The Report Company: What should Trinidad and Tobago do to promote itself as a tourism destination?
Barry Bedasie: There’s a lot that still needs to be done. When you look at Trinidad and Tobago from a tourism perspective, we are considered fairly new in the sector, especially Trinidad which is an energy-based economy. Trinidad and Tobago is two separate markets: Tobago is the tourist destination with beautiful flora, fauna and beaches while Trinidad is more of an industrial business centre.
That’s the beauty of Trinidad and Tobago. You can do business, attend conferences and meetings, and then 10 minutes away a beautiful paradise awaits you. You can lie on some of the best beaches in the world and snorkel on some of the greatest reefs you can find. We have in Trinidad and Tobago the ideal tourism product.
What is affecting us is that it’s not as internationally known as it should be. We are lacking in awareness. People around the globe are not too familiar with us. Consumers tend to sway towards destinations that are top of mind. Trinidad and Tobago is not a top of mind destination.
We have identified that we have a product that we can sell to any consumer; for business, for sports, for leisure, for religious purposes, for a culinary experience, you name it. We have a little of everything. The challenge now is to get it out to the wider travelling population and that requires a marketing and promotion spend. That is where we are focussing our energies on right now; getting brand Trinidad and Tobago out there. People do not know us and that is where we need to put our focus and attention.
“Trinidad and Tobago is two separate markets: Tobago is the tourist destination with beautiful flora, fauna and beaches while Trinidad is more of an industrial business centre.”Tweet This
TRC: How important are events such as the World Travel Market in London to Trinidad and Tobago?
BB: We at the Trinidad Hotels, Restaurants and Tourism Association wholly support such initiatives. We are consulted and we make suggestions on the markets we should look at. The WTM is the perfect place to launch the brand but it is just a small market of buyers. We need to launch in every destination that we want to gain access to, be it Germany, Panama, the US or Canada.
TRC: How should Trinidad and Tobago be defined as a tourism destination?
BB: It’s a two-for-one package. You experience two different types of energy, two different types of vibes and many different cultures. You are getting two bites of the cherry because you are experiencing two different islands on one country. What makes us unique is the warmth of the people, the sights and attractions. We have a very vibrant nightlife, our culinary experience is enormous and our shopping is tremendous. We have a holistic package just waiting to be experienced. It’s a place to explore; it’s an excellent destination. The thing about Trinidad and Tobago is there is never a dull moment; there’s always something to do. We are very diverse in our culture and we have preserved our various heritages and that is important.
TRC: What needs to be done to boost the sector?
BB: The Tobago product, for example, needs to be developed further. There are no five-star resorts in Tobago. There is no premium all-inclusive property in Tobago. Tobago doesn’t have a pull brand like a Radisson or Hilton resort. We need to get the product right in Tobago and then we will see more arrivals. Tobago is not yet getting the front of the aircraft clientele. We are only getting the economy passengers.
“We are lacking in awareness. People around the globe are not too familiar with us. Consumers tend to sway towards destinations that are top of mind.”Tweet This
TRC: Do you envisage mass tourism in Tobago?
BB: If you look at the map of Tobago you will see that it can cater for all types of tourism. At one end of Tobago you can have the little guest houses without electricity and on the other end you can have the lavish resorts. The branded resorts are a pull factor and a destination like Tobago that has beautiful beaches should attract international investors.
TRC: What is your assessment of the level of competition in the market in Trinidad?
BB: Trinidad is saturated right now. Trinidad has enough rooms at this time for the volume of business we’re doing based on the occupancy. We need more arrivals, not hotel rooms. We need to generate more business to fill all the rooms.
TRC: Could you give us an overview of the Cascadia Hotel and its operations?
BB: The company I work for bought this hotel in May 1998 and we opened the doors on 1st June 1998. At that time there was an emerging market in Trinidad for meetings and conventions. We felt we had to be part of that game so we rebranded the hotel to be the Cascadia Hotel and Conference Centre. The reason we added the conference centre was that, at that time, we had the largest space for meetings in the island. We were the only hotel with a ballroom that can seat up to 1,000 persons. If we had more hotel rooms, we would be able to capitalise on more and larger meetings. Our location is our advantage because where we are situated is the ideal facility for meetings. You’re five minutes away from the city centre but it feels like a retreat. We offer splendid food and beverage services and give guests personal attention. We portray ourselves as a home away from home.
TRC: What is the future of the hotel?
BB: The future for Cascadia is that while the industry grows and blossoms, we want to be part of that. We want to be part of the growth in the tourism development of Trinidad and Tobago. We aim to do extensive refurbishing and to look at making the hotel a green hotel, and as long as the industry stays constant and arrivals continue to increase, we will definitely play a significant role.