Soca Warriors score tourism goal

Trinidad and Tobago may have been knocked out of the FIFA World Cup, but they are still scoring points on the tourism front, capitalising on their presence in Germany.

With the tagline: ‘Small Country, Big Passion’, the oil-rich nation sustained their presence in Europe beyond their team’s defeat, with their tourism board’s month-long sponsorship of the World Travel Awards media centre in Berlin.

This comes after the T&T Ministry of Tourism entered into an agreement with the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation to ‘maximise on the tremendous marketing and branding opportunity made available’ by the island’s qualification.

Trinidad followed in Jamaica’s footsteps, after it saw a more than a ten percent rise in visitors after competing in the 1998 World Cup for the first time.

Tourism Minister Howard Chin Lee told the Inter Press Service news agency, ‘The main focus of the Soca Warriors project is to increase awareness of Trinidad and Tobago as a tourist destination by developing, producing, placing, funding and managing the content of all relevant marketing programmes for the promotion of Trinidad and Tobago tourism product.’

Trinidad and Tobago was the sole sponsor of the 24-hour Internet café and sports bar at the main media centre at the InterContinental Berlin.

Chin Lee said that this provided a good opportunity to sell the island since the site is utilised by more than 14,000 journalists and is situated at FIFA’s organising headquarters.

At the café, all home pages on the computers, laptops and fixed screens featured Trinidad and Tobago, while large banners also advertised the destination.

In addition, the Caribbean island spent an estimated $1.6 million to send a 125-member cultural group to Germany.

The ‘Soca Caravan’, as it was called, performed in Dortmund, Nuremberg and Kaiserslautern – venues where Trinidad’s World Cup games were played.

James Hepple, president of the Tourism Development Co., told Inter Press Service, ‘What we’re here for is to get Trinidad and Tobago’s name out into the world. And we’ve had a lot of local and international journalists pick up on what we’ve been doing. Some stories carried by the local German stations have gone national.’

He added, ‘The return on investment is going to be huge. We’re talking millions of dollars worth of coverage. You couldn’t buy this kind of advertising.’

The T&T tourism ministry has also launched a website, www.socawarriorstt.com, complete with travel information, videos and photographs of local sights, sounds and festivals.

It also features the soccer theme in upcoming promotions in the United Kingdom, Germany and in Trinidadian communities in South Florida, New York and elsewhere.

It helps that Trinidad and Tobago have also been hailed as the Best Eco-Destination in the World by the World Travel Awards.

On Tobago alone, which is 26 miles by seven miles and gets over 80 percent of the tourism traffic, there are 2,300 flowering plants and shrubs, 220 species of birds, 100 types of mammals and 70 species of reptile, while in the surrounding waters there are 40 species of coral, including the world’s largest known brain coral, 600 species of fish.

Tobago is also home to the oldest legally-protected forest in the world. The Main Ridge Rainforest Preserve was established in 1776.

The Tourism Development Company of Trinidad and Tobago also took UK tourism industry delegates to the games, including the match versus England.

TDCTT UK manager Nova Alexander and Tobago Hotels Association chairman Rene Seepersadsingh were part of the team, with talks of the destination boosting extra flight capacity from the UK by 2007 through a yet-to-be-named carrier.

This year Saga Holidays has launched a Trinidad programme and a 1,000-capacity conference centre will be finished on the island by next year.

The tourism board is keen to push twin-centre breaks to Trinidad and Tobago with government subsidised flights between the two islands.

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