Home / View Point / Is Cudjoe’s TDC move a sham? Ex-TIDCO CEO on Govt’s new tourism plan

Is Cudjoe’s TDC move a sham? Ex-TIDCO CEO on Govt’s new tourism plan

Government last week announced a decision to dissolve the Tourism Development Company (TDC) and replace it with two, maybe three agencies. It is unclear, to me at least, what the government might have in mind with this move.

Minister Shamfa Cudjoe’s announcement made me remember a line from the Eagles’ song “Sad Café” that says, “Things in this life change very slowly if they ever change at all.”

Photo: Tourism Minister Shamfa Cudjoe (left) and former Tobago House of Assembly (THA) chief secretary Orville London. (Copyright THA.gov.tt)
Photo: Tourism Minister Shamfa Cudjoe (left) and former Tobago House of Assembly (THA) chief secretary Orville London.
(Copyright THA.gov.tt)

The rationale cited by the Honourable Minister is to allow Tobago (the THA) greater autonomy in marketing Tobago. But therein lies the first piece of intrigue. The THA has always marketed Tobago!

The Tourism and Industrial Development Company (TIDCO) and then the TDC were, however, also, responsible for marketing Brand T&T.

Tourism has significant economic diversification potential and can create vast numbers of sustainable jobs, significantly more than the energy sector, which receives most of our thought and attention. But we have not been clear about our definitions and so we have underfunded, underdeveloped and under-marketed our tourism product.

Arthur Lewis, in his well-studied thesis of industrial development, advocated tourism as an important component of economic transformation. A tourist is properly defined as “any visitor not domiciled in the destination,” the purpose of his/her visit being irrelevant. It is this that gives rise to different types of tourism: commercial tourism, conference and event tourism, eco-tourism, medical tourism, sport tourism, leisure tourism, etc.

Often when debates rage, individuals refer only to leisure tourism and a widely held view is that “Trinidad doesn’t have tourism.”  Yet, it is a truism that the largest single attraction to our shores each year is the T&T Carnival. Go figure.

Photo: Jamaica sprint star and global sport icon Usain Bolt (centre) enjoys himself during the 2017 Carnival celebrations. (Copyright UK Sun)
Photo: Jamaica sprint star and global sport icon Usain Bolt (centre) enjoys himself during the 2017 Carnival celebrations.
(Copyright UK Sun)

So it was something of a surprise when that “Trinidad doesn’t have tourism” statement recently emerged from the mouth of a minister. It was repeated by the head of a major group established to guide government’s economic policy.

This major move to dissolve the TDC is presented to us without a comprehensive plan for the sector, which one would have expected in any move to diversify the economy. I would have expected that collaboration between the Tourism Minister and the Economic Development Advisory Board, led by respected economist Dr Terrence Farrell, would have given rise to a comprehensive plan for investment and development in the tourism sector.

What, then, is the Trinidad and Tobago tourism product? It is certainly rich and diverse and can be easily differentiated from its Caribbean peers. But on their own, both the Tobago product and the Trinidad product have significantly less value than the T&T product; the whole is much greater than the sum of the parts.

It makes sense, I think, to re-invigorate the “Terrific Trinidad and Tranquil Tobago” campaign.

Our rich product has appeal for the middle and upper-income visitor, who are usually well educated, better equipped to appreciate the cultural content and nuances, the eco-assets and the richness of our festivals.

Generally speaking, these individuals have a higher net worth and will allow us to have a revenue/visitor metric that is the envy of our neighbours.

Photo: A visit to the Pitch Lake. (Copyright TDC)
Photo: A visit to the Pitch Lake.
(Copyright TDC)

However, mass marketing will not reach this group and, as a result, we don’t see T&T advertised on billboards in the USA. Our marketing and advertising has rightfully been targeted to the high-end hotel in-room magazines, the niche publications like Bon Appétit and Conde Nast, Time Magazine, Latin Finance and selected trade shows.

What we seek to sell them is our ethnic and cultural diversity, which is a significant comparative advantage; interestingly, most of it resides in Trinidad. To that, we can add the bustling commercial sector.

However, the culturally more homogenous Tobago does boast the better beaches and, among other attractions, a world renowned and well preserved rain forest, fascinating marine life and dive sites and a rich representation of the African culture in folklore.

Because of the tendency to focus on oil and gas, however, we have not really developed this sector. For example, the north-eastern coast from Las Cuevas to Toco and the eastern coast from Manzanilla to Mayaro are ideal for an expansive recreational corridor. During the early 2000’s, tour operators and tourism investors recognized this area as having the potential for major investment.

Indeed, an integrated resort planned and previously approved for Mayaro received attention from Super Clubs, with a major global golf investor waiting to sign on the dotted line. Recognizing this potential, the government was encouraged to create an Integrated Resort Development (IRD) policy but it remained dead letter and the resort never got off the ground, killed, one suspects, by politics and consistently bullish oil and gas prices.

Photo: The Asa Wright Nature Centre. (Courtesy Playboxtt)
Photo: The Asa Wright Nature Centre.
(Courtesy Playboxtt)

With the collapse of those prices and the prognosis for recovery as grim as it is, the policy might be resurrected. But what is really needed urgently is a plan, focused spending and a consolidation of effort. Given government’s historical unwillingness to fund product development and marketing initiatives, we shall see what happens on that front.

I was particularly interested to hear Stephen Cadiz, a former minister of tourism, speaking last week about the need to fund the sector. One guesses that he got an epiphany after he left office. But there is no disputing that funding is a critical element in rescuing tourism.

So do we need two organizations to do the job? My answer is an emphatic no!

What Trinidad and Tobago needs is one well-managed organization to market and promote our two-island nation.  Ideally, the organization will do five things at least:

(1) build relationships and strategy with transparent involvement of the stakeholders;

(2) set standards for product development and operations;

(3) ensure consistent quality in content and timing of ad and marketing campaigns;

(4) exercise responsible stewardship by monitoring, measuring and reporting progress and results; and

(5) develop relationships with tour operators and global service providers.

Photo: Visitors wait for a flat bottom boat to take them to the Buccoo Reef.
Photo: Visitors wait for a flat bottom boat to take them to the Buccoo Reef.

After all, Trinidad and Tobago is one nation. Replacing one underperforming organization with two underfunded and underperforming ones will only double the inefficiency.

So why pretend to change, Madam Minister, if the change is not real?

About Brian Harry

Brian Harry
Brian Harry is a former CEO of TIDCO, who now lives and works in Texas. He is a consultant whose areas of specialisation include corporate development and strategy and organizational development, in the Energy, Hospitality and Financial Services Sectors.

Check Also

kamla-and-keith-rowley-stabroek-news-ftr

Can Government weather the coming storm? Best fires one at the PNM

Time was when, if yuh neighbour house on fire, yuh used to throw water on …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

71 comments

  1. Tourism Plan, what Tourism Plan. Do we here in Trinidad know what that word means…really?

  2. The very first basic is to clean Trinidad,mount a sustained campaign to get Trinis to develop a culture of care and cleanliness for the environment.I do not want to sound unladylike but to quote two of our entertainment icons this place is too ‘stink and dutty’.Tobago seems to be way ahead of Trinidad in this regard. Secondly we can add culinary tourism although this may very well be a key component of the other genres.

  3. Some worthwhile suggestions and interesting questions here.

    “The Tourism and Industrial Development Company (TIDCO) and then the TDC were, however, also, responsible for marketing Brand T&T.” Did they ever have a plan for measuring the impact of their marketing efforts? Whatever new companies replace TDC, this should be an important feature. If you don’t measure impact, how do you know whether you achieve anything? I would not be so hasty to condemn the dissolution if TDC accomplished not enough with the resources they were given – perhaps it was a much-needed move to stop wasting our resources. Whether the solution is to have two companies instead remains to be seen – but should be carefully considered and strategically planned.

    >>It makes sense, I think, to re-invigorate the “Terrific Trinidad and Tranquil Tobago” campaign.<< But does it make cents?

  4. They say i is ah mad man i doh mind but ah jammin still take that in allyuh pipe

  5. Big shall get bigger. ..at the expense of the little ones. .

  6. when was the last plan developed

  7. Why aren’t we hearing the views of the stakeholders in this fiasco.?Fear? The more things change, the more things remain the same

  8. Can someone list all that TDC has done since its existence. Additionally what exactly are the new plans? More information is needed. I contineu to say Consultations are shams. To date we have no know report from the ‘so call’ consultations and investigations into TDC (like so many other organizations.) Governments simply shut downa and open under adifferent NAME and do the same things with the same results.(NOTHING but millions invested) Governments enter office into power with plans and nothing is going to change their minds. We literate now , so stop trying to pull wool over our eyes. Who friend or pocket you all want to full. The land of corruption and no one makes jail, except little black boys. Sweet T&T how I Iuv your bad. MY country, My home

  9. They shutting down the TDC so the big wigs could eat a good and drink a juice with Sandals and the small hotels will catch them ass to live what you vote for is that you will get (De ink)

  10. Sham… Shamfa… I see what u did there

  11. why is this woman still a government minister?

  12. PM Dr Rowley spoke starting the process of reviewing TDC and making changes based on recommendations….. hence stands to reason this new approach is the results….. i maintain TDC in its current form/structure have not worked …… change is needed….

    • no problem with change. but when implemeted in a highhanded autocratic manner with our tax money, i for one have a problem.

    • Change isn’t needed. Well planned and intelligent change is needed.

    • How do you know it is not well planned or intelligent….. high handed why the Minister didn’t soft soap her words…… look eh I keep saying the time for molly cuddling is gone…..we don’t have the money to pander to Unions etc….. if the Unions spent as much time with members and getting them to do a honest days work… not half day or a few hours eh…. a full day this country would be well on the road to recovery….. but nooooooo it’s easier to attack the Ministers👀👀👀

    • if it was well planned they would have announced the replcement body already. if it was intelligent it would have been explained to the population. if it was transparent, we would have been told of the process.

    • How do you know it is intelligent Jamelia? Because a minister said so?
      If the Govt is making the change then it is the Govt’s responsibility to explain the change and why it would fix the problem.
      It is actually easier to just accept everything as opposed to asking questions. Don’t be misled. The easiest thing to do is to say “yes boss”.

    • It is reckless not to ask questions. Especially in hard financial times.
      The real patriots are the ones who seek answers and push the authorities to perform at their best.
      The ones who say nothing and assume that everything the Govt does must be in our best interests are actually the ones who aren’t contributing much.

    • The latter are also contributing Lasana…..to the demise of our country! The reason why sycophancy on either side is so pernicious but do not expect the sycophants to understand that.

    • I can ask you the same question Lasana…..anyhooooo…. my point stands the TDC has not done a good job promoting our twin island state FULL STOP ……. only time will tell if the change is well planned and intelligent…. me I’m always asking questions and never nod my head with no yes sir no sir how high do I jump sir approach….. I also never attack without all the facts….. the announcement was made (I believe because it is protocol also the workers needed to be informed before) the Minister if I’m not mistaken left the country shortly after (accused of running and hiding👀) for a conference in Germany……. I await her return for further information on what happens next

    • The workers need to be informed before the stakeholders who are the public?
      One thing I disagree with is you see asking questions or even disagreeing as an attack. I don’t get that.
      I’m not knocking your intelligence or anything. It is just a different approach.
      I believe in alerting the driver before we hit the ditch and not after. Hence why I want to be involved at the start of the process and not after things have fallen apart.

    • There is a helluva lot missing between saying something isn’t working and then saying what the new plan is.

    • Lasana I’m not referring to our conversation here….have you seen some of the other comments both on social media and main stream media towards the Minister……

    • But Lasana is not now TDC not working is long time….. I have had dealings with them in the UK and stories would make your blood boil….suffice to say someone always want their hands greased when TDC hosted events to promote TnT….. let me not get started on the last HC I will not call his name…..anyhooooo😶 I’m straying from the point…… suffice to say many don’t like the Ministers style/approach etc hence whatever she do will be picked apart….. me I say good nobody in history ever made an omelette without breaking any eggs😑😑

    • I don’t titevaay around Facebook too much Jamelia. In case something happens to me and people say it is my fault! 😂😂
      I’m not disagreeing that something has to be done about tourism. I won’t even say this proposal can’t work.
      All I’m saying is they should be ready to explain to us why they think it WOULD work. That isn’t a personal attack on the minister or the prime minister.

    • Lasana Liburd…YES the workers needed to be informed about the decision before the stakeholders,-that is, general public. But even before that, there was an obligation to meet with the RMU, which means which apparently the CWU has. Apparently failing to do so, I wait for IRO to be filed lol. Let the gov’t practice what it preach to private sector, that is, consultation first.
      And while I do not take issue with the decision, as Jamelia Hazel Ann Reid-Cato pointed out the TDC has been. underperforming to put it mildly, and I do not recall anything like that stated on the manifesto, no any public consultations with tourism bodies or public, my issue really is the manner in which it is being done.

    • to add to that the sandals issue , which is another tourism issue being dealt with in the same manner.

    • Nerisha do you think at Apple or Liverpool or Prestige Holding or any other successful company, the workers are told of a major decision before the investors?

    • Major business is one thing, there is a legal requirement to give notice, it is good IR and there is an RMU. All they would end up with is a lot of matters heading to court, and from the way it’s playing out, workers may have good cases. Look at the length of service of workers. How are the new jobs going to be different-wouldn’t there be core jobs that would need to continue? I can see some issues here.

    • The government would do a lot better if they saw itself as a business and the people of the country as the investors/shareholders. The workers job is to implement. The people can overthrow the government (democratically–in theory) and end a development they don’t like. Ask Manning.
      So which group should they take more seriously?
      It is only because the people don’t realise their power that they are treated as less than even workers.
      What is a worker going to say when they inform them that they are splitting the TDC? What makes that such a critical thing to be done before properly informing the public?
      All they have to do with workers is properly explain what they have to do, give them a safe working environment and pay on time.

    • ‘All they have to do with workers is properly explain what they have to do, give them a safe working environment and pay on time.’
      No eh, there is an RMU and there is a process to handle possible/imminent retrenchment.
      You can’t tell me they decided this overnight? After a number of years, you going to put so many workers on the breadline in tight Labour force?
      But I agree with the point about ppl not realising their power.

    • I didn’t say they had power to fire at will.

    • My question is, couldnt you have restructured the existing company without creating 2 (or 3) new companies.

      Also I agree with the point in the article where marketing of T&T would be more effective than marketing of each island separately.

    • @Nigel, on top of that, we hearing everyday $ is a problem, how/why should we pay for two entities to do the job one could/should have been doing. And what does the Ministry of Tourism actually do, then?

  13. I saw it and posted here Jamelia. But nothing in Rowley’s speech suggested why this current approach is a good one or even better.
    All he said it that they were satisfied with what they were getting from the TDC. Which is hardly ground breaking stuff.
    I’d like a proper explanation as to why this way should produce more benefits.

  14. Excactly right Vernal Damion Cadogan, but the major issue here is not marketing, which has been the focus through the last two decades. We need destination development projects to build and maintain attractions and amenities. Without things to do why would tourists come?

  15. Everyone should get behind the CWU on this one.

    • Earl Best

      Keston, when you find yourself agreeing with a union leader in Trinidad and Tobago, you can need no further evidence of how bad things are in government…

  16. Good writing Mr. Harry but my take on T&T tourism product – runaway crime is having a deleterious effect on visitors, foreigners read travel advisories…and look at the pathetic state of Maracas Bay…

  17. They aren’t going to market one ass, the Ministry of Tourism is and always has been a racket where taxpayer monies are siphoned off and funneled into the pockets of God knows who.

  18. Agreed and when the politics trumps the economics we end up with this kind of imbroglio! The gains of our development since independence are being reversed and I fear even an upturn in global energy demand will be insufficient to lift us out of our under development. Inspired leadership is needed.

    • I don’t think we can get rid of the politics. That is impossible. We need to include it in our analysis for better decision-making while considering the costs of changing the status quo, and why our governments move towards the irrational. Were there threats or ultimatums about the Sandals deal falling through?

    • Keston K. Perry, getting rid of the politics is not impossible. is just to get rid of the parties in politics. And yes pitbull threatened the nation already if the deal were to fall through.

    • Haha. You talking about a call to arms. Lol which in a democratic country is not cool. What I mean is we should consider the politics as the basis of the decision and understand how the players fit in and what can be the best possible outcome given how things work. To assume so-called economic decisions are in themselves value-free and unbiased is not at all accurate.

    • we can never know ” the basis of the decision and how the players fit in”, because in pymramid shaped organisations like political parties, and well, governments it is easy for corporate bodies to corrupt the whole system by corrupting the top, or those close to the top. there is no need for arms fo this, just a simple change in the constitiution. “To assume so-called economic decisions are in themselves value-free and unbiased is not at all accurate.” is this relevant to me Keston K. Perry?

    • The point about economic decisions is relevant to the overall discussion.

      You are most likely aware that we have many provisions in our constitution like Codes of Ethics, and Rules of conduct of political candidates and so on. Are they always followed? Why is that so? When we can approximate an answer to that we’d be closer to a solution. My thinking is that how people operate in our society are a far cry from the actual formal rules, and understanding how we can make incremental changes in real world practice would shift us closer to the formal rules one day. The latter do not necessarily cause better behaviour. It just makes people find craftier ways to bend the rules. And you can’t legislate everything.

    • i would venture to say the rules and codes of ethics are not followed because they are not enforced. very simple.

      • Earl Best

        And would you like, Spencer, to go on to offer an opinion as to what are the real reasons they are not enforced? That would be a big help, I think…

  19. The UK…each member have its own tourist board…. England….Scotland…..Wales…Northern Ireland…. each have their own Tourist board…. makes perfect sense to finally split up the TDC….madness is doing the same thing over and over and getting the same results😑😑…. Shamfa and by extension the GOTT finally took the bull by the horns i say great….now all is needed is to remove square pegs from round holes

    • You’re talking about places that have been at war with each other–some recently–and where there is a lot of distrust and ill will to each other.
      If you knew how England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland view each other, you would never use them as an example.
      And that’s not even taking into account the difference in scale due to the size of those territories.

    • I know full well how they view each other…. i lived in the UK….. however my point is TDC in its current form has not worked as effectively as it should……sooooo why not try a new model….. again the definition of madness 👀👀… we cry change….think outside the box…. ummm like is really only lip service trinis good at….. i pray ppl realise there will always be a spill over knock on effect right we are still Trinidad and Tobago it is hard to mention one without the other…. however Trinidad will and should push best places for tourist to visit and Tobago same…..

    • Okay, well looking past the UK example which I didn’t agree with. I DO agree we need to try something different. The question is what.
      Did we really analyse what isn’t working and why? Is this move more ilkely to solve the problem or to create another one?
      You can always make a bad thing worse.

  20. I do agree that it does not make sense to market both destinations separately-isn’t that the beauty of brand TnT-something for everyone. And in my opinion, that creates duplication at time when resources are scarce.
    I have always had a question about the need for a separate ministry specifically targeted to tourism. We have identified the various types of attractions, so why not have the ministries responsible for such activities market the islands and what we have to offer. So the Ministry of Sport would actively market and communicate activities in each community and sport. Same for other ministries. And we need to capitalise on publicity while they are hot topics. Recently our limbo queen (who apparently resides abroad) was also on Ellen showcasing her limbo under a truck. Bunji, Machel and Destra have won foreign awards. We have expats and immigrants all over, and they seem to do a better job of marketing TnT. Let’s just make information accessible and attractive. We have Bunji’s music on Grey’s Anatomy (I think), reference on Blackish, I think it’s Julie Chen (The Talk) who has a trini housekeeper so she sometimes makes trini references. Guy Fieri on DDD visited at least one trini food place. I am not as familiar with UK exposure, but from direct flights to Tobago through your operators, I think we just need to focus as the market is there. We need to build more brand awareness, as I think we are already in the market.

    • There is a lot of UK exposure with sport as Dwight Yorke is a household name in England and Marvin Andrews is almost as big in Scotland.
      Most people may not know that former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown wrote the foreword in Marvin Andrews’ biography since he was a fan of the boyhood fan of the club Andrews played for. I can’t remember if that was Levingston or Raith Rovers.

    • Earl Best

      Nerisha, You never mentioned Calypso Rose in your list. Mere lapsus or is one to read into that the fact that you too are unimpressed by the hype around her “achievement”?

  21. Mr. Harry’s comments r clearly those of someone who was in the middle of the tourism thrust. But he offers little proof that the new tourism arrangement will fail. He talks mainly from a product orientation angle rather than from a customer orientation focus. It is a shortcoming, I have noticed, of many so called “Gov’t” executives whenever they venture in Marketing territory.

  22. The challenge for some writers on economic topics is that they misunderstand the politics behind state decisions. They mainly suggest that bureaucracies need improving (like rationalising TDC or equipping it with renewed vision or objectives) when the diagnosis is incomplete. A “focus” on oil and gas was not accidental; it was deliberate since the British navy shifted from using coal to oil in the 19th century, and we made moves from agriculture to resource-based industrialisation. The analysis renders invisible the powerful interests and forces behind state decisions. Then such an analysis moves to putting forward reasons why economic shifts have not taken place. In my humble view the politics has more to say about this decision than the economics. They undeniably go together and one cannot be explained without glaring beyond the obvious.

    • Earl Best

      Point taken. But, Keston, does that invalidate the economic analysis?

      In the best of all possible worlds, shouldn’t the political decisions be anchored in the economics and the sociology? Don’t we elect leaders and representatives who will, at least in theory, seek to create the best of all possible worlds for us?

    • So what do you see as the politics behind the decision then? Throwing the THA a slice of pie?

    • Recent history would reveal a lot. Our politicians have always been manipulated by multinationals with threats of losing foreign exchange or their business to another destination, because that’s what foreign capital does. In the meanwhile, we’re hoping the pittance they offer in taxes and low-paying jobs minus what they evade/repatriate will make up. The most irrational decisions tell us a lot about what’s behind if we dissect who the major potential winners and losers are. Who sat on the committee that made this suggestion? Look at the negotiating team for the Sandals deal and ideological postures from their track-record. Sandals would probably prefer that we don’t have an informed comprehensive policy and instead make piecemeal decisions as they will gain. I suspect more ‘autonomous’ marketing authority would mean it’s easier to influence how to spend the millions. The first people to speak in favour were the hotel industry, while we have no clear agenda or idea why or how this benefits Tobagonians and taxpayers.

  23. This woman is clueless. At a time given our dire state of state finances you are seeking to produce three inefficient organizations out of one. Consolidate to cut expenses not multiply

    • Earl Best

      It’s not the woman; she merely announced a Cabinet decision. Not saying that she is not clueless but you can’t fairly arrive at that conclusion on the basis of this evidence.

  24. I cah read off the internet. Can you copy and paste the article to my inbox thanks lol

  25. Earl Best

    Eh eh! A second Tobagonian disagreeing with Rowley and Cudjoe? Well, well. maybe there is hope for us after all!

    What do you think of Watson Duke’s suggestion that Rowley is merely trying to micro-manage the whole show because he has given certain unspecified commitments to the sandals people – on the golf course, mind you!