The little island looks set for a big year ahead, with a fresh brand and a renewed focus on the UK travel trade. Andrew Doherty finds out what agents can expect
"We believe it’s the start of a positive transition for Tobago by moving the island away from its position as a twin to our sister island, Trinidad.
"We want Tobago to be a destination in its own right and have used the island’s unique character and features to guide our new campaign,” says Louis Lewis, chief executive at the Tobago Tourism Agency.
He explains that the tourism agency’s new branding, which uses the tagline “Tobago Beyond”, will promote the island’s sea and beaches, ecotourism, culture and heritage, soft adventure and romance and weddings offerings.
It will use a #101thingstodointobago hashtag to encourage clients to share their experiences on social media.
“We want to shout about the fact that we have the longest protected rainforest in the western hemisphere, one of the highest densities of bird species and the largest brain coral in the world,” he enthuses.
With his first major project since taking up the mantle as the agency’s first-ever chief executive, Lewis is confident that “extensive data-driven research” undertaken by London-based branding experts Gravity, will help develop a strategy to convince potential clients to visit Tobago.
Lewis says the final results revealed that more than 1.2 million online conversations about the Caribbean didn’t include the name of a specific destination. As a result, Tobago Beyond will target the superboomers and dinky (dual income no kids yet) markets.
“We know these groups have the means to afford a Caribbean escape, but they also have the inclination to find something different that feels off the beaten track. Somewhere that gives them the feeling of discovering something for the first time.”
In order to support the Tobago Beyond branding, Lewis says there will be “extensive” upgrades to the on-island product, including the construction of a new terminal at the Arthur Napoleon Raymond Robinson International airport and the redevelopment of Tobago’s cruise port.
“The government has recognised the importance of tourism and the need for high standards. We have an ongoing public awareness campaign to ensure host communities are more receptive to tourism too. We realise we need to up our game and make sure we deliver what we’ve promised with the new brand.”
There are a few big-name hotel brands coming to the island too, says Lewis, including a Sandals and Beaches resort for 2020, touted to be the group’s biggest ever project with the two brands sitting side by side.
“I think Sandals’ interest in Tobago really confirms we have a world-class product. Because it’s an all-inclusive brand with a good reputation, we expect the volume of business to be high with significant benefits for agriculture and employment.”
New training is now available at tobago.mytrainingrewards.com and destination guides will soon be available for UK agents, including a booking incentive to reward the top-selling consultant with an “all expenses paid” trip to the island.
“There has been a challenge with the trade selling Tobago because they were unsure of the wide array of what’s available. Also, the product in Trinidad and Tobago is so different that if you try to sell the two at once, you either dilute them both or miss the message on one,” Lewis says.
“We will also be hosting two fam trips for the UK market, which represents 50% of our overall visitor arrivals.”
With an array of things to do on Tobago, there should be something to suit all tastes...
The Magdalena Grand Beach & Golf resort o ers couples plenty of options to create the ideal romantic getaway, including a vow renewal ceremony (from £702). A honeymoon package offers newlyweds seven nights with a complimentary upgrade to a one- bedroom Oceanfront suite.
Book it: Funway Holidays has seven nights from £979pp with flights and transfers included. funway4agents.co.uk
For clients looking for relaxation and rejuvenation, Caribtours suggests a stay at Castara Retreats. With several yoga retreat packages and an on-site massage therapist available, guests have plenty of ways to unwind. Plus, the retreat’s beachfront rooms and accommodation, set within lush tropical gardens, make for a picturesque hideaway.
Book it: Caribtours has seven nights at Castara Retreats from £1,049pp. caribtours.co.uk
Sea and beaches
If flopping on golden sands is the name of the game, then a stay at the Blue Waters Inn seems like a sure-fire winner. Set within a sheltered bay with its own private beach and complimentary non-motorised watersports, sun worshippers and water babies alike should love this 38-room property.
Book it: Gold Medal offers seven nights’ B&B at the Blue Waters Inn from £1,279pp. goldmedal.co.uk
A week-long fam trip to Tobago with the tourism board last year saw Booth experience a variety of what’s available on the island. From rainforest hikes and waterfalls to rubbing shoulders with locals, she says the trip “really summed up” Tobago’s character.
“The island is unspoilt and that’s why it’s selling well. You won’t find any major chains here such as Starbucks, or that large swathes of forest have been cut down to make way for a theme park or hotel development. You’re not going to be bumping into big groups of tourists at its points of interest either.”
With three- to five-star accommodation options across the island, Booth says Tobago is one of the more affordable Caribbean destinations.
Getting there is easy too, with British Airways and Virgin Atlantic flying out of Gatwick and Thomas Cook from Manchester, all flying via St Lucia.
But for Booth, rubbing shoulders with Tobago’s locals was the highlight of the trip. “I’d recommend clients visit the Sunday School club. It’s amazing fun with a live steel pan band. Crown Point near the airport is a great spot too, with bars and restaurants in abundance.”