The Caribbean tourism sector is readying itself for a major state of the industry conference, which attracts some of the biggest movers and shakers from both government and the private sector. The Caribbean Tourism Organization is holding the shindig on 11 and 12 October at St. Kitts Marriott Resort and The Royal Beach Casino, preceded by two days of business meetings concerning the organisation itself.
The conference this year is subtitled Developing A Winning Tourism Strategy and will bring together over 300 tourism industry leaders from the more than 30 member-countries of the Caribbean Tourism Organization, as well as representatives of the regional and international private sector, academics and members of the press. It will be the first official appearance of the new chairman of the organisation’s Council of Ministers who will have been elected on 10 October and who will serve for a period of two years.
The programme includes a day of media orientation and press briefings on Tuesday, 9 October. This is traditionally where member countries gather to share updates about their tourism product with media gathered from the United States and the Caribbean itself.
Among the issues up for discussion are the changing face of world travel and tourism and what makes us winners. An explosive session titled The Challenge of Regional Transportation – Where is the Solution? is expected to produce creative responses to the existing intra-regional transportation problems.
This will not be limited to air transportation, but will also examine sea transportation as a means to connect some of the destinations.
“Regional travel is a focal point of concern for our member-countries. The volume of intra-regional visitors generated among our members annually is close to 1.5 million. But that number is decreasing and it a major concern to us,” said Hugh Riley, the organisation’s secretary general.
“Caribbean people are longing for a service that is convenient, reliable and affordable. There is a perception that it is often cheaper to travel from the Caribbean to the United States than from one Caribbean country to another. There’s something wrong with that. For this and other reasons the topic is of critical importance.”
That session is the centrepiece of the conference and takes place between 3pm and 5pm on Thursday, 11 October. Moderator is Holly Hegeman, an experienced airline industry analyst and publisher of PlaneBusiness Banter, a weekly financial subscriber publication of the airline industry.
Other eye catching sessions are promised on the same day, which begins with a general session titled The Changing Face of World Travel & Tourism – Winning Strategies for Caribbean Competitiveness. Speakers scheduled for that one are Auliana Poon, managing director of Tourism Intelligence International and Stephanie Balmir-Villedrouin, minister of Tourism for Haiti. Later that day, the session moves to Redefining the Role of National Tourist Offices, moderated by Carlos Vogeler of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation. Laurence Bresh of Visit Britain, Helen Schur Parris of Sunlinc Florida and Alain St. Ange, the Seychelles minister of tourism, are all on the panel.
Friday, 12 October, is another packed day of sessions, which begins with an intriguing-looking talk, What’s Next for American Airlines? Art Torno, the vice president for Mexico, Caribbean and Latin America Airlines is lined up to lend his insight into one of the year’s biggest stories. More abstract is the following session where a panel will debate What Makes Us Winners? On past evidence, the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s view is that the Caribbean has all the attributes to make the region a must-visit, if not always marketed successfully. The debate will touch on these aspects plus drill further into the specific elements of what assets exist and how these can be best presented.
This will be eloquently delivered by Beverly Nicholson-Doty, the commissioner of tourism for the US Virgin Islands, Buddy Darby of Christophe Harbour Development Company and moderator Bevan Sprinter as they speak to the importance of The Right Product, the Right Message, the Right Time. Three metrics, in fact, that are central to any business and ones that traditionally have not always applied in the best way to destination marketing according to the organisation. Finally, the complexities of message delivery will be further explored in a session on New Media vs. Traditional Media – Who is Getting the Message. Representatives of Yahoo, SoWeb USA, Hyatt Resorts and more will be on the panel, which is moderated by Neysha Soodeen, the CEO of Maco Investment Group.
The Caribbean Tourism Organization, with headquarters in Barbados and offices in New York and the United Kingdom, is the Caribbean’s tourism development agency and comprises membership of more than 30 governments and a myriad of private sector entities. The organisation’s mission is to create and manage the partnerships necessary to increase the purchase of travel to and within the Caribbean that results in sustainable economic and social benefits for our people. The Caribbean Tourism Organization comprises 32 member countries, including English, French, Spanish and Dutch countries and territories, as well as private sector allied members. These include the Caribbean Hotel Association, companies, organisations and people providing products and services to the Caribbean tourism industry.
A new chairman will be elected before the conference, replacing the outgoing Ricky Skerritt, who has served in the position since his own election during 2010.