EXPERIENCE TURKS AND CAICOS
Racquel Brown, Change Manager and Interim CEO of Experience Turks and Caicos, speaks about marketing the country as a multi-island destination with a plethora of possibilities while maintaining a sustainable approach to tourism.
Can you talk us through the origins of Experience Turks and Caicos and its initial vision and mission?
Racquel Brown (RB), Change Manager and Interim CEO: Following the dissolution of the Tourist Board in July 2023, two entities were formed: Experience Turks and Caicos and the Department of Tourism Regulations (DTR). While the DTR is entrusted with regulating the industry and ensuring all tourism stakeholders function to a particular set of standards across the board, Experience Turks and Caicos’ mandate is to promote and market TCI. As the destination marketing organisation, our mission centres around three pillars: inclusive growth, sustainability, and competitiveness.
Through inclusive growth, we aim to ensure all communities in TCI benefit from tourism, which comprises 80 percent of our GDP. Core to this mission is the marketing of TCI as a multi-island destination, encouraging guests to visit and discover the beauty, history, and culture of our main islands beyond Providenciales – Grand Turk, North, Middle, and South Caicos, and Salt Cay – plus our exceptional private island resorts of Parrot Cay, Ambergris Cay, and Pine Cay.
As a luxury destination, ensuring our guests enjoy a quality experience is key. Therefore, sustainability is essential. The natural beauty of TCI – our breathtaking beaches, our underwater attractions such as the third largest barrier reef in the world, which captivates divers from all over the world, our limestone caves in North Caicos, and our natural parks teeming with flora, fauna, and marine life – must all be protected for the benefit of our residents and visitors.
We work hard to enforce several sustainability measures to ensure that these pristine natural environments – both on land and underwater – are preserved for future generations. In October, we commissioned a carrying capacity study, and we are the only Caribbean island to implement this. The study examines current pressures in the tourism industry and will act as a benchmark in reviewing the implications of growing tourism numbers while setting, monitoring, and maintaining industry standards. A carrying capacity model for TCI will be designed in line with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and all its indicators.
The third pillar, competitiveness, speaks to the processes that will be implemented to guarantee the ongoing improvement of the quality of all the tourist services and attractions offered by tourism stakeholders in TCI.
Why should someone visit TCI, and what type of travellers do the islands appeal to the most?
RB: We are a luxury destination and home to Grace Bay Beach, consistently ranked as one of the best beaches in the world. As such, we attract a demographic with discerning tastes, those looking for seclusion and privacy, unparalleled experiences, and stunning accommodations with the best amenities you can think of. Visiting TCI should be at the top of every travel list because we are the destination that helps you to unplug from the daily rigours of life, relax, dream, and enjoy life the way it’s meant to be. In TCI, you can soak in our gorgeous beaches, tantalise your taste buds at one of our many restaurants, and explore our culture and heritage in our sister islands and at events such as our weekly Fish Fry. As a multi-island destination, you can diversify your experiences with day trips and overnight stays to Grand Turk and North, Middle, and South Caicos.
Beyond the stunning destination and accommodations, what makes for an unforgettable visitor experience is our emphasis on warm and authentic hospitality. We truly value our visitors and go above and beyond to ensure they have an unforgettable experience, regardless of where they are staying. This human connection is what continues to bring visitors back year after year.
Which destinations within the islands would you recommend, and what is the target audience?
RB: For day trips and overnight stays we recommend:
- Grand Turk: The capital of TCI and our cruise capital is an island where history comes alive. Here, you can stroll through the picture-perfect Cockburn Town, one of the oldest areas in the country, and learn about the history of the islands through the many historic buildings that have been preserved and restored. Grand Turk also has magnificent beaches and amazing marine activities, such as diving along the 7,000 foot (ft) wall, part of the third largest barrier reef in the world. The Grand Turk Cruise Center also lives on the island’s southern end and serves as the base for cruise ship visitors, with gift shops, restaurants, and other tourist attractions here.
- Salt Cay: The smallest of the inhabited islands, Salt Cay was once the hub of the salt industry and offers a walk-through history, stunning beaches, whale watching, scuba diving, snorkelling, and fishing.
- South Caicos: Perfect for those who love marine activities, South Caicos is a quiet island that attracts bone fishers, divers, and those who enjoy paddle boating, kite sailing, kayaking, and boat tours.
- North and Middle Caicos: Our verdant twin islands, North and Middle Caicos, offer picturesque, secluded beaches such as Mudjin Harbour and Bambarra, beaches, stunning caves such as the Conch Bar and Indian Caves, plantation ruins, and birdwatching. These islands are great for a day trip for those looking to explore.
Are there any new tourism initiatives or projects in the pipeline that you would like to highlight?
RB: Our current focus is on developing our tourism product on the sister islands to increase visitation and spending. We recently complemented our team with a local representative who will be focusing on developing the product in North, Middle, and East Caicos
What are the current challenges facing the tourism sector?
RB: Of course, being an island in the Atlantic Ocean, the hurricane season, which runs from 1st June to 30th November, is our biggest challenge. Thankfully, we have proven our resilience in bouncing back from extreme weather situations in the past.
How do you propose to promote the islands, especially when it isn’t peak season? Are there any changes to the marketing strategy you would like to implement?
RB: We are continuing to seek new airlift into TCI to encourage ease of access. In November, we welcomed a twice-weekly, non-stop Virgin Atlantic flight that will open up the UK and European markets for us and encourage more visitation throughout the year. There have been talks to begin airlift into Grand Turk, which would be a gamechanger for that island and further enhance our thrust to increase visitation.
What are Experience Turks and Caicos’ key priorities and goals for the future?
RB: Our key priorities and goals are to develop our tourism products in keeping with our pillar of inclusive growth. Ensuring all communities and stakeholders benefit from tourism is key. We are also enhancing our collaboration with stakeholders to ensure our guests receive a quality experience and that we continue to preserve the environment around which our tourism product is centred.