Caribbean Week New York a success

The Caribbean Tourism Organisation’s annual conference in New York showcases the region’s offering while providing an opportunity for officials to discuss the industry.

The week-long bash plays an important role in raising the awareness of the area to the United States, one of the most important markets for many destinations including Cayman.

The event also provides a snapshot overview as to travel industry trends and 2011 was no exception.

“In terms of travel to the Caribbean, there is optimism because the numbers are moving in the right direction,” said Sylma Brown-Bramble, the Caribbean Tourism Organisation’s Director for the Americas.

“What we have heard over the past few months is that although the numbers are increasing the revenue is not, because consumers are now looking for the deals before they make that decision to travel. “We need to be a little bit more creative about when consumers visit a destination; that they leave more revenue on-island. There is optimism that numbers will increase but we have to be vigilant and consistent in keeping the Caribbean in the front of the mind of the consumer.”

Brown-Bramble explained that while it is early to say the actual measurable effects of Caribbean Week in terms of increased visitation or publicity, there were already plans to build on some of the seminars of this year.

Caribbean Week Canada will follow later in 2011 with officials negotiating as to whether it is to be held in October or December.

“Canada is a really strong market for the Caribbean; it recovered much, much sooner than the US market so it is very important that we have a presence there.”

Meetings and fora

The week itself was a blend of heavy duty meetings, fora, trade fairs and events, explained the director.

“It was exhausting but extremely rewarding; I have heard only positive comments from the participants. Members of the committee were all pleased. This year we introduced two new elements. One was a focus on the youth in the student colloquium where we challenged students to develop a project that was sustainable. One that could be implementable in the Caribbean. They did research on whichever project they wanted to present. It was very interesting; we had seven universities, four from the United States and three from the Caribbean.

“The level of research that went into the presentations was very impressive and some went over and above what we expected, delivering some extremely helpful and useful presentations. So much so that the winner, the University of New Haven, Connecticut, will be invited to present at our upcoming conference on sustainable tourism in Guyana next April.”

Another new element was a power breakfast, where power brokers from the United States were invited to come in and talk about their perception of the Caribbean as a region in which to invest.

“These are companies which have invested in Latin America but not in the Caribbean so it was an opportunity for governments to begin a dialogue with those investors about their various destinations as potential places for investment.

“We had a presentation from Brian Lilley of Lilley Broadcasting and a presentation from Bermuda as the capital of investment and banking in the Caribbean. We had speakers from the Spackman Capital Investment and Goldman-Sachs talking about the positive aspects and the challenges of investing in the Caribbean. We wanted to be honest about what impediments, if any, there were for investing and what they were looking for when they were looking for a region to invest in,” said Brown-Bramble.

This seminar brought a wider range of potential investors to the attention of governments and began dialogue, she said.

“At the end of the week we had [the film festival,] Caribbean Tales; there is a company based in Toronto that does incubators and workshops on films made in and by the Caribbean. On the Saturday the event was at Long Island University’s Spike Lee Auditorium where they had a workshop and previewed some movies, one of which was Find Babylon, a powerful presentation of the West Indies team during the 15 years in which they were the masters of world cricket.”