Supporting Domestic Tourism
November 16th, 2022
In 2021, domestic tourism prevailed as a critical component of the local tourism industry, with a constant flow of visitors between Trinidad and Tobago, offsetting the impact of declining international arrivals during the pandemic. The daily inter-island ferry service between Port of Spain (Trinidad) and Scarborough (Tobago) which is a key infrastructural component of the domestic tourism offering, remained a popular choice for vacationers and others commuting between the islands as it completes the 20-mile journey in a mere three to three and a half hours.
Trinidad and Tobago Inter-island Transportation Company Limited (TTIT) operates the sea bridge service providing reliable affordable transportation for passengers, vehicles and cargo between Trinidad and Tobago. It is a vital sea link for business and leisure/tourism.
From inception, the inter-island sea bridge has been operating vessels of varying size, speed, and capacity. Having addressed several challenges, Vilma Lewis-Cockburn, Chief Executive Officer of TTIT outlined recent developments, “Innovations in vessel design and technology, and changing customer demands have resulted in fleet upgrades over the years. The acquisition of the Galleons Passage and more recently, the APT James and the Buccoo Reef catamarans provide examples of progress.”
Heavily subsidised by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, TTIT’s operational costs are escalating. Historically, passenger utilisation of the inter-island ferries has been between 68% to 82%, with the lower limit reflecting the movement of passengers during non-peak periods and the upper limit representing the peak utilisation interval. The sea bridge usually operates a fleet of at least two passenger ferries, hence there is always excess capacity even under normal circumstances. To fill this gap, TTIT is intent on attracting new customers through improved delivery and marketing of its services.
What’s next for TTIT? Lewis-Cockburn shares her vision, “We want to maintain our leadership position in providing inter-island transportation by improving our service delivery. In addition, we also want to streamline operations which will result in improved efficiencies. I would also like to see us improve brand TTIT and provide customers with an experience of safe, reliable, comfortable, and affordable travel between the islands.” TTIT also has plans to invest in infrastructural works as well as increased training for its employees.
Current visitor arrival figures reflect a significant increase in domestic tourism and with international travel behaviours likely to be impacted in the long term, it is expected that this will continue as the new normal in the domestic travel industry. Optimistic about the continued revival of domestic tourism in a post-Covid environment, Lewis-Cockburn anticipates that passenger utilisation rates will increase by 25% in 2022 and 27% in 2023.
With limited recovery in global tourism expected in 2022 and projections of a scaled rebound in the Caribbean, it is anticipated that domestic tourism will maintain the positive momentum generated during the pandemic. In the face of uncertainty caused by new Covid-19 variants, TTIT must continue to seize the opportunity to drive profitable demand and retain client loyalty in a competitive market.