Tuesday, October 22, 2013

State of the Industry in the Caribbean - CTO 2013

State of the Industry 

Marketing the Authentic Caribbean Vacation 

Melanie Reffes

The industry’s annual conference on tourism was held this year on the French island of Martinique. Organized by the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) in collaboration with the Martinique Tourism Authority, ‘State of the Industry’ (SOTIC) was the star attraction at the Madiana Convention Center in Schoelcher, a suburb of Fort de France. 
View of Fort de France from the ferry ( credit: M. Reffes ) 
Arpege Choir from the St. Joseph’s Cluny Convent singing the national anthem at the opening ceremony (credit: M. Reffes )
Under the banner Perfecting the Experience, Delivering Authenticity, government officials, tourism ministers, directors and commissioners , academics and experts tackled topics that addressed improving the vacation experience for visitors to the region. “It is the quality of the experience that will determine if our guests develop such an emotional attachment that they become influencers and repeat visitors, “ said Hugh Riley, secretary general, CTO, “the more the Caribbean pays attention to visitor experience, the more it will enhance its competitive position.”
Karine Roy-Camille, tourism commissioner, Martinique and Hugh Riley, secretary general, CTO ( credit: CTO )
With a resounding call to order, CTO chairman, Beverly Nicholson-Doty opened the conference with strong words described as both ‘wisdom and a ‘warning’,  "the slogan 'One Sea, One Voice, One Caribbean' cannot be just a feel good tagline that we embrace when we meet a few times a year , it must be the strategic marketing reality of our region if we are to survive the aggressive marketing efforts of major destinations around the world. “   Adding actions speak louder than words, she told the audience ‘as a region we are great debaters and we’re big on lyrics but we’re slow on implementation.”  
Beverly Nicholson-Doty, Chairman, CTO ( credit: CTO )  
 Describing Brand USA as a strategy that markets the entire country as one tourist destination, Nicholson-Doty said that the concept behind the brand was initiated in the Caribbean more than a decade ago. “Brand USA has the data that shows travel increased to the US since the program’s implementation and when we’ve implemented a cohesive marketing program, our visitor arrivals also have increased. "

Emphasizing that marketing the Caribbean as one region makes fiscal sense, USVI Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. added this strategy offers a competitive advantage for all  Caribbean countries, “we may be perceived as competitors going after the same guest, but the fact is that we are 'economic co-conspirators' trying to attract visitors to the region and then keeping them as long as possible.  “ 
USVI Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr.and CTO chairman, Beverly Nicholson-Doty (credit: CTO )

USVI Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. ( credit: CTO) 

Do the Math
According to figures released at the conference, the number of travelers visiting the Caribbean from January through July totalled 15.6 million, with tourism officials adding there has been no “incremental difference” compared to the same period last year. "The U.S. market had a marginal growth of 0.8%, which totaled 7.8 million visitors and represented a market share of 50.4%, up from 49.6% in 2012," said Beverly Nicholson-Doty, chairman, CTO. 

 Of the twenty-six countries reporting arrivals, Anguilla, Aruba, Belize, Cayman Islands, Curacao, Guyana, Haiti, Montserrat, St. Kitts-Nevis and Suriname were the fastest growing.  The Dominican Republic, with 3.31 million arrivals was the top performer in overnight arrivals followed by Cuba (1.99 million), Jamaica (1.26 million), Puerto Rico (731,959) and the Bahamas (730,988).   
Anguilla Little Bay ( credit: ATA ) 
Willemstad, Curacao (  credit: M. Reffes ) 
13.4 million visitors arrived via cruise ships to  twenty-two countries between January and August . The Bahamas ( 2.78 million ) led the pack of arrivals followed by Cozumel, Mexico (1.84 million), U.S. Virgin Islands (1.32 million), St. Maarten (1.01 million) and the Cayman Islands (859,850).
Bright blooms in The Bahamas ( credit: Bahamas Tourism ) 

The Sound Bites  

“Martinique is making strides in its quest to develop its tourism product and we are aiming to welcome one million visitors by 2020. The island will invest 100 million dollars in tourism development over the next three years.” Karine Roy-Camille, tourism commissioner, Martinique.
Karine Roy-Camille, tourism commissioner, Martinique ( credit: CTO ) 
 “It is so much easier today and getting easier every day to share one’s impression of a destination, hotel or other travel experiences via social media. These ubiquitous digital impressions are so powerful that they have been described as a permanently archived word of mouth. “Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, former secretary general, CTO.
Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, former secretary general, CTO and consultant, CTDC
(credit: CTO) 
‘Travelers want real, they want unique, they want to interact with people and with everyday aspects of community life. “Daniel Levine, executive director, Avant Guide Institute, New York.
Daniel Levine, executive director, Avant Guide Institute, New York. (credit: CTO ) 

"Progress is incremental, but it is happening.” Hugh Riley, secretary general, CTO, referring to the Aviation Task Force which will meet in November with IATA and the Latin American and Caribbean Air Transport Association.

“  I could stand here and give lip service about tourism and have everyone leave this beautiful venue feeling warm and cozy but  the fact is, it is sink or swim for the Caribbean and the choice is in our hands.” Beverly Nicholson-Doty, chairman, CTO. 
Beverly Nicholson-Doty, chairman, CTO. (credit: CTO) 
“Regional carriers can be major contributors to the development of the Caribbean by providing reliable intra-Caribbean service and by bringing in visitors from the rest of the Americas. “ Albert Kluyver, CEO, Curacao-based Insel Air.
Insel Air ( credit: Jeffrey Shafer )
“Our average visitor is far better informed than they were when the tourism industry began to blossom in the 1960s. A limbo dancer walking on crushed glass and fire eating with a steel band tinkling away in the background was all the entertainment that was necessary for a fun filled evening. Today we must be far better than that. With Disney’s launching of the Pirates of the Caribbean over the last few years, visitor interest in pirates has increased remarkably. Our opportunity is to incorporate our region’s involvement with the real pirates of the Caribbean. This includes the sites of their activities, their way of life and their ports of call.”   Dr. Lennox Honychurch, historian, Dominica.

 “Destinations need to know that digital was made for them. Tell your stories, inspire people and be compelling; be authentic and beware if you are not; and don’t be afraid to ask questions.” Jim Brody, general manager destinations, Travelzoo.
“Government taxes on airline tickets are extremely onerous, there could be more carriers going bankrupt if the situation continues.”  Jaime Lopez-Diaz, CFO, Seaborne Airlines.  
“Between the years 2008-2012 there has been a decline in intra-regional travel within the English-speaking Caribbean. However, the wider Caribbean has seen moderate increases.”  Brian Challenger, chairman, CTO Aviation Task Force.
“I have no words to express how I feel. I’m so overwhelmed and full of excitement.” Neila Jones, 16-year old winner Tourism Youth Congress , student at the Gingerland Secondary School in Nevis.
Neila Jones, 16-year old winner Tourism Youth Congress , student at the Gingerland Secondary School in Nevis. (credit: CTO )  

Getting There 

American Airlines offers direct nonstop service on Saturday from Miami with a Wednesday flight starting November 27 continuing through March 26, 2014. 

Seaborne flies 4 times weekly from San Juan, Air France makes the trip three times a week from Paris and connections via Air Caraibes, LIAT and Air Antilles Express are available from several other islands to Fort de France.

Daily ferries make the trip to Martinique from St. Lucia (20 minutes), Guadeloupe (45 minutes) and Dominica (two hours) . 

Make a Date
SOTIC 2014 will be held next October in St. Thomas, USVI.
Paradise Tram in St. Thomas ( credit: USVI Tourism ) 
 For more information: www.onecaribbean.org.
Meet Martinique 
(credit: M. Reffes ) 

Ti Sable restaurant ( credit: M. Reffes ) 

Slavery Memorial ( credit: Anne Marie Parent )
Shopping in Fort de France ( credit: Stephane C. ) 
Diamond Rock ( credit: M. Reffes ) 

St. Louis Cathedral ( credit: M. Reffes ) 

La Pagerie hotel ( credit: M. Reffes ) 

credit: M. Reffes 

Shopping in Creole Village in Trois Islet ( credit: M. Reffes ) 

Government in Fort de France ( credit: M. Reffes ) 

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Monday, June 10, 2013

The Caribbean Spices up the Big Apple

June 10, 2013

Melanie Reffes

New York City

The largest regional tourism event in the New York area, Caribbean Week in New York rocked the Big Apple with fashion shows, gospel concerts, cooking demonstrations, tropical parties and seminars for travel agents who sell the region. The annual event attracted regional tourism ministers, commissioners and directors of tourism, hoteliers, travel agents and those planning their next vacation in the Caribbean.
View from host hotel, The New Yorker (credit: M. Reffes )

For tourists booking the Caribbean for a vacation or a honeymoon, the popular Romance Pavilion was a big hit with those planning to tie the knot in the sunny south. "Today's consumers are empowered, travel savvy and know more about their travel options than ever before, “said Jacqueline Johnson, president, www.marrycaribbean.com and event organizer , “bringing the best of the Caribbean to couples is just one of the ways to help them make informed choices about one of the most important events in their live.”
Romance Pavilion, Jacqueline Johnson, president www.marrycaribbean.com  (credit: CTO) 
 Organized by the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), supporters of the Caribbean Week included the countries that make up the region , Association of Travel Marketing Executives (ATME), Caribbean American Chamber of Commerce, Caribbean Airlines, Elite Islands Resorts, Hyatt Regency, JetBlue, Sandals Resorts and the Empire State Building which was lit up in the colors of the tropics .
Hugh Riley, secretary general CTO, supermodel Georgie Badiel,  Beverly  Nicholson-Doty, Chairman CTO ( credit: CTO)

Supermodel Georgie Badiel, former Miss Africa and actress Tamara Tunie , celebrity spokesperson for Caribbean Week and  (credit: CTO ) 
Empire State Building in the colors of the Caribbean ( credit: CTO) 
Rise Up
Setting the stage for the week-long events, the Gospel Celebration lit up Brooklyn’s Bethesda Healing Center with a musical line-up that kept everyone on their feet. Fan favorites included ‘Know Your Culture’ ,  a non-profit troupe that blends dance with the traditional costumes of Dominica and  from Grenada, Janice Charles is the island's musical ambassador.  “The Gospel Celebration is an excellent way to begin what is for us the most important week on the calendar in New York,” says Sylma Brown, director, CTO, USA, “as Caribbean nationals, it’s part of our culture to begin events with praise and prayer and the Gospel Celebration allows us to maintain this tradition while we celebrate our unity and diversity.”
Know Your Culture ( credit:  CTO) 

Janice Charles ( credit: CTO) 
The Main Event
Vancouver-based and founder of the hospitality consulting company Reknown, Daniel Edward Craig wowed delegates with his  strategies to manage the online reputation of  hotels and destinations. The former general manager of Opus Vancouver, his clients have included Destination British Columbia and Trip Advisor.  “Consumer opinions posted online are increasingly trusted by those making travel decisions , “ he told delegates, “ social media has changed behavior in various areas including how travelers make decisions regarding where to go and who to do business with.” Effective use of social media, he explained, is key to a hotel’s profile and the success of a destination, “although tourists are using Twitter and Facebook routinely, video will be the next big thing in online reviews because it tells the real story. “ Acknowledging feedback, he added, "is paramount to managing an online reputation because travelers do not expect perfection but they do expect the truth which can mean the good, bad and the ugly. "  Recommending a staff person at every hotel be designated a gatekeeper to monitor social media, he suggested  " setting up alerts on Google or subscribing to a site such as ReviewPro which keeps track of social media performance and guest satisfaction.  “
Selling Paradise
 Travel agents were treated to another way to keep their heads above water during a well-attended seminar that focused on selling excursions above and below the waves. “This is one of the most important and lucrative niches of the Caribbean tourism product, “ said Sylma Brown, director, CTO USA, “from sailing and snorkeling to scuba diving and water-skiing, water sporting activities are as endless as the expansive beaches that fringe the Caribbean. ”
Diving in Bonaire (credit: Bonaire Tourism) 

Stingray City Grand Cayman ( credit: Stingray City ) 
Commissionable to agents, the many tour operators in the region are eagerly courting visitor participation on virtually every one of the islands. “This multibillion dollar industry represents a unique opportunity for travel agents who sell the Caribbean to increase their profits as the  destinations are continuing to develop and upgrade their product to appeal to the maximum number of visitors,” added Sylma Brown, director, CTO USA.

Island Banter
Opening on December 20, 230-room Sandals La Source Resort will introduce upgraded facilities to the former La Source property and is taking bookings now for high season.  “The opening of such a great resort will raise awareness of our island, “said Christine Noel-Horsford, head of marketing , Grenada Board of Tourism,”, the airlines are already taking notice with five flights a week on American Airlines starting in December  .” Perennially popular with elegance-seekers, Spice Island Beach Resort will close for three weeks in September for a US$1.8 million upgrade. New at the Mount Cinnamon Resort, Cinnamon Heights is a spacious three-bedroom villa ideal for multi-generational families or a gaggle of good pals. Later this year, Grenada Grand Beach Resort will be renamed and re-branded as the Radisson Grenada Beach Resort and at La Luna, thirty-five rooms will be added by the end of this year.  

Christine Noel-Horsford, head of marketing , Grenada Board of Tourism (credit: M. Reffes )

Spice Island Beach Resort ( credit: SIBR)
In St. Kitts, the much-anticipated Park Hyatt will open next year with 125 rooms, spa and two restaurants.  Also on the drawing board for Christophe Harbour, Tom Fazio-designed golf course, shopping promenades and additional  hotels to be added by 2015.  For the first quarter 2013, visitor arrivals saw a hike of 4.4%  driven by the addition of two non-stop American Airlines flights from Miami  and Delta’s upgrade to the aircraft size . Delta will reinstate peak season service starting from the first weekend in November . For travel through December 15, “Feel the Warmth St. Kitts & Nevis” offers gratis free nights, resort credits, discounts for families with children and reduced airfare via AA Vacations, Delta Vacations  and US Airways Vacations.   www.stkittstourism.kn/

Caribbean coast in St. Kitts ( credit: SKB Tourism ) 
For agents selling St. Lucia, “Elevate Yourself” retreat takes its appreciation for travel agents to new heights with commissions on ticket sales  and added incentives for bookings of groups of twenty or more. The three-day retreat from November 1 – 3 includes seminars, seaside yoga, rainforest tours and cooking demonstrations.  “The retreat is becoming a notable event on island and we attribute much of the success of the program to our network of agents, “said Louis Lewis, director tourism , St. Lucia Tourist Board, “ the commission on tickets sales is just one way we can reward their unwavering efforts to promote the island.” Hotels participating include Bay Gardens Beach Resort and Smugglers Cove Resort.  www.saintlucianow.com

Bay Gardens Beach Resort ( credit: Bay Gardens )
In St. Maarten, beds for heads are on sale during the summer including Divi Little Bay Beach offering thirty percent rate cuts starting at USD $174.00 per room, per night. www.diviresorts.com.  In the heart of Philipsburg, Holland House is offering a four-night Beach Special  that includes an oceanfront room, breakfast for two and WI-Fi and is valid for travel through October 30. www.hhbh.comAt Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort and Sonesta Maho Beach Resort, "Fun in the Sun" package comes with a thirty-five percent rate reduction on all-inclusive stays with a three-night minimum. Five night stays include USD$200.00 in resort credits  valid for travel through September 30 with reservations made by July 31.  www.sonesta.com/greatbay ,www.sonesta.com/mahobeach

Sonesta Maho Beach Resort ( credit: M. Reffes ) 

Marla Chemont, Edward Dest, Rosette Generlette,  St Maarten Tourist Bureau (credit: M. Reffes) 
 Next door in Anguilla, Malliouhana Hotel  with new pools ,restaurants and revamped rooms will open later this year while the  32-room Manoah on Shoal Bay and the Zemi Beach Resort are slated to open in 2016 . “Anguilla is not only for the rich and famous, “ said Haydn Hughes, parliamentary secretary, tourism, “we have 2,000 hotel rooms at various price points which appeal to travelers of all budgets. “    http://ivisitanguilla.com/

Haydn Hughes, parliamentary secretary, tourism 
(credit: J. Stephens)
Anguilla beach ( credit: ABT)
Show Me the Money
The third annual Avalon Invest Caribbean Now Forum, organized the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO)  and digital media solutions company, Hard Beat Communications, was the hot ticket for Caribbean tourism ministers, private-sector partners ,government policy makers and Chinese investors who came together on the heels of Chinese President’s Xi Jinping’s pledge of  USD$3 billion in loans to ten Caribbean nations . “The Chinese private sectors are seeking opportunities in the Caribbean such as hospitality, real estate, healthcare and education industry because they are easy to operate, are transparent and create jobs,” said Li Li, managing director, Chinese American Business Development Center,” the people of the Caribbean are dynamic entrepreneurs, highly educated, hard-working, ambitious, and optimistic.” 

Li Li, managing director, Chinese American Business Development Center , New York  (credit: Hayden Roger Celestin)

ICN founder Felicia Persaud, 4th from right, with Mike Ronan, vice president of government relations for the Caribbean, Latin America & Asia at RCCL, 4th from l.; Miguel Reyna, director, Port Business Development and Asset Management, 3rd from r;  Kara Coleman, news anchor of One Caribbean Television, 2nd from left and the China and the Caribbean panellists including Li Li, managing director ,Chinese American Business Development Center ,Consul in charge of economic & commercial affairs of the Consulate General of China in New York, Xiaoguang Liu; 3rd from r. and Johnny Liu ,American Chinese Commerce Development Association at right.  (credit: Hayden Roger Celestin )
Keenly interested in Chinese investment , Dr. Rufus Ewing, premier of Turks and Caicos said his country is open for business, “we are looking for low density high luxury development and for  this, we are offering tax incentives to make development more attractive. “ Other projects in the works include the expansion of the Providenciales International Airport; Caicos Causeway Project that will stretch from Providenciales to South Caicos and yachting tourism that includes marina development. In 2012, China invested USD$9 billion in the Caribbean, a 9.4% increase over 2011. In the next two years, China will invest in Caribbean agricultural centers and the hospitality industry, set up 1,000 scholarships for medical students, develop sports facilities and computer centers and invest in secondary schools on several islands. Direct airlift from China to the Caribbean is the biggest challenge, said Xiaoguang Liu, consul in charge of economic affairs, Consulate General of China in New York,  “if airlift materializes, prepare your airports and get ready for the invasion,” he said, “Chinese travelers could top 100 million by 2015. To attract even a small portion of these travelers, Caribbean resorts must adapt to the Chinese visitor.” 

Also in attendance, Anthony Eterno, Caribbean affairs officer, US State Department, reiterated the Obama administration’s commitment to an economic partnership with the Caribbean. "Ours is a relationship that is born of a strong desire by all of our countries to collectively participate in an improved and sustainable future," he told delegates,” we see the positive results of this strong partnership creating economic growth and prosperity for all of our citizens.” In 2012, U.S. imports from the Caribbean totaled more than USD$11 billion, representing a 178 percent increase over the past decade while U.S. exports to the Caribbean totaled USD$12 billion , a  133 percent increase over the past decade.    “ Caribbean governments should do more to  sell  the diverse Caribbean investment story to the right people, “said Felicia Persaud, founder , Hard Beat Communications,  “the region is relevant despite what the naysayers may claim with  eight nations in the Caribbean ranked in the top 100 fastest growing economies globally.”

Anthony Eterno, Caribbean affairs officer, US State Department ( credit: M. Reffes ) 

Next Up
The ‘State of the Industry ‘Conference will be held this year in Martinique from October 15 to October 18 under the banner ‘Perfecting The Experience and Delivering Authenticity.’  ” Hosting the State of the Industry Conference is a great honor and we are extremely proud of it, “said Karine Roy-Camille, commissioner tourism, “we look forward to welcoming delegates to the Isle of Flowers in October for a taste of our special brand of French-Creole warmth and hospitality.”   www.onecaribbean.org 
Sainte Anne, Martinique  (credit: Luc Olivier ) 

 Photos Fabulous 
Willy Monfret, model and spokesperson Guadeloupe Tourist Board, Sandra Venite, coordinator, trade and marketing, Guadeloupe Tourist Board,   (credit: M. Reffes ) 

Rum & Rhythm ( credit: CTO ) 
Rum and Rhythm ( credit : CTO) 

Anguilla Tourist Board ( credit: CTO)  
St. Vincent Tourist Board ( credit: CTO  ) 

Jamaica chef Brian Lumley serves Jamaican-style cuisine on TV and at Bloomingdale’s (credit: JTB) 

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