Above: the investment conference in New York (CJ Photo: Joshua Martinez)
By Joshua Martinez
NEW YORK — “We need to get away from a boom and bust economy.”
These were the words of Trinidad and Tobago Trade, Industry and Investment Minister Vasant Bharath, who was addressing a group of potential investors at a conference pitching Trinidad’s economy in New York.
While Trinidad has long been an economic leader in the Caribbean due to its thriving energy sector, it’s now looking to diversify its economy.
The New York event, which was hosted at the Council on Foreign Relations this week, was aimed at promoting all sectors of Trinidad’s economy, with a particular emphasis on tourism.
The latter is something of a new push for the twin-island country; its longtime (and logical) emphasis on oil and gas has been what Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar at the conference called a “blessing and a curse.”
That is, a blessing for the consistent growth energy provides; a curse for not creating an urgent motivation to develop other economic sectors.
But that’s now changing.
The push began in earnest in 2013 with the efforts of former Tourism Minister Stephen Cadiz, who was set to lead the country on a global tourism marketing push.
Now, two Tourism Ministers later (in less than two years), that drive has waned a bit, but many in the country have long advocated for a stronger tourism focus.
That could come in a number of ways — from increasing the number of hotel rooms, particularly in Tobago, to developing niche sectors like cultural tourism and eco tourism.
Ultimately, the country’s officials urged, the key is to develop the country’s economy more broadly, from tourism to other industries like agriculture and green energy.
But in a tourism-heavy region, it’s a natural place to start.