“In making a case for domestic tourism, Tourism Minister
Shamfa Cudjoe said Trinidadian residents vacationing in Tobago
spent over TTD 500 million, which translates to about 59 percent
of Total Domestic Travel Expenditure. Persons from Tobago
visiting Trinidad spent approximately TTD 250 million”.

Minister of Tourism, thanks for supporting the case for the need for a robust approach to data collection in this country.  A poor approach to data collection and analysis has paralysed several sectors over the years.   We are often making decisions based on bad data and false conclusions.  The Ministry of Tourism is no exception.  If someone with a small guest house, takes your $1billion statistic seriously and expands his/operation that person can suffer significant losses and be left asking what went wrong?Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 14.03.24

If the Ministry of Tourism is using such data to boast about the impact on our economy, please take an open approach to your data and share it with the average citizen. Government as well as the person supplying food on Store Bay need to make decisions using robust data.

My biggest challenge with this data is that since we do not fill out landing cards between Trinidad and Tobago, reliable data collection becomes problematic and unreliable. I can’t even contemplate the period during which the data was collected because it “revealed that 263,300 overnight domestic trips were taken by Trinidad and Tobago households over the survey period”.  If on average there are 50 flights per day (and that’s generous) then simplistic maths reveal that your data collection period was at least one year and each passenger was surveyed.

In addition to providing us with the data, we need to know the distinction between the Trade strategy and the Tourism strategy.  Speak to the average Tobagonian and she will tell you that she shops in Trinidad because of the exorbitant prices in the supermarkets.  She will complain that if she needs a visa she still has to come to Trinidad and we’ve all heard the laments about Title Deeds.  There is significant inter island travel to satisfy a range of basic needs.  When I travel to Tobago to conduct a training programme, I hope I am not viewed as a tourist or when a lawyer travels to represent a client, this is not leisure.

There is an excellent case for domestic tourism and the “Stay to Get Away” campaign is a good one but please be careful with overpraising and sensationalising what is a business case.  We need data driven decision making not sensational headline grabbing data.

So here are three lessons in this:  Firstly, the citizens are interested in your trade strategy versus your domestic tourism strategy, secondly we must organise a robust method for data collection and thirdly, citizens are wary about taking official word as gospel.

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