“Stay to Get Away…” - 7 sept 2008

“Stay to Get Away…”

‘Summer’ vacation is over and the ‘kids’ are back out to school.  Some of us jumped on a plane to visit some far flung destination but many of us were lucky enough to experience some of the wonderful sites and attractions available right here in sweet Trinidad and Tobago.  There is just so much to see locally – and that was the topic at my friend Stuart’s house on Independence night.
Maybe it is because most of us at this Independence night lime had spent several years living outside of Trinidad and missed Trinidad enough to know not to take her for granted.  But everyone had a story about a favorite hike, park or beach.  Personally I love Chaguaramas.   I belong to a group called the ‘Mall Crawlers’ led by our favorite fitness coach Howie Dottin, and we try to meet every Sunday morning at 6am to do some walking / running around some of the many paths and trails in Chaguaramas.  Some trails have amazing views, such as the Golf Course to Macarepe (car park) trail.  Easy enough for those of us with small children but the views of the valley on one side and the ocean on the other – are breath-taking!  Of course, there are quite a few groups that regularly meet to do this sort of activity – Hikers Inc and UWI Hiking club come to mind.
To chat some more about local sightseeing, I decided to ‘message’ my Facebook ‘friend’ Stephen Broadbridge who it turns out, is the Public Relations Officer of an organization called the Trinidad and Tobago Incoming Tour Operators Association (TTITOA).  I did not realize that we had over 470 species of birds and 620 species of butterflies!  In the Caribbean, Caroni Swamp is considered by some to be the best mangrove and Nariva Swamp is considered to be the best freshwater wetland.  We have flora and fauna that no other nearby island can boast of, and this makes us a dream destination for eco-tourists. 
But by no means least, we have one of the largest accessible sea turtle nesting areas in the world.   A few weeks back, there was the launch of the Turtle Village Trust which seeks to protect and help continuing research on our five marine turtles – the Loggerhead, Olive Riddley, Green, Hawksbill, and the Leatherback turtle.  What is also appealing about this project is that it is a partnership between the Trust, the Ministry of Tourism and BHP Billiton.   Appealing because Vision 2020 is not about government action alone, but about all stakeholders coming together to play their roles, and this project brought together local communities, the state and the private sector.
Stephen Broadbridge sees the main challenge for local tour operators being marketing.  I tend to agree because if more people knew just what they were missing out on – they would definitely check these places out.  The second challenge is unfortunately crime as we cannot talk about hiking and trails without touching on it.  Stephen believes that the key is to know where to go and where to avoid.  Fortunately for him, he has never had an unfortunate incident but does admit that the fear of crime is a concern for many overseas visitors.  The third challenge is not so much knowing where to go as it is knowing when to go.  Particular care is needed in the rainy season. Fatca Tax Singapore
The Ministry of Tourism and the Tourism Development Company just completed a full month of activity promoting local tourism.  It took the form of a ‘T&T Road Trip’ that visited 4 different Shopping Centres – Trincity Mall, Mid Centre Mall, Movie Towne and Gulf City - over 4 weekends in August.  It not just raised awareness of local sites and attractions but encouraged us to experience tours to sites such as Museums, the Pitch Lake and Gasparee Caves – at subsidized prices.  The official Road Trip may be over but we should still continue to explore our beautiful islands as we all move towards Vision 2020.

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