Josef Forstmayr is the President-Elect of the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA), and will become the voice of tourism in the region when he takes up the presidency in June. He is also the Managing Director of Jamaica’s exclusive Round Hill Hotel & Villas, voted “World’s Leading Villa” seven years running by the World Travel Awards. Forstmayr has grown into a highly-respected and popular leader in Caribbean hospitality, and has used the success of Round Hill to initiate sustainable projects within the local parish. BTN spoke to him to find out his thoughts ahead of CHTA Marketplace 2010.
BTN: How would you describe your role as President of CHTA?
JF: The president of CHTA is really the overall voice of Caribbean tourism to promote the region and to lobby the Caribbean governments to facilitate policies which will grow and enhance tourism and its development.
BTN: What are you hoping to achieve at this year’s CHTA Marketplace?
JF: CHTA Marketplace is the most important regional conference to showcase our product to our tour operator partners worldwide. It gives all Caribbean tourism entities an opportunity to participate at a major international trade show at minimal travel expense. It also affords our tour operator partners an opportunity to visit the region and get a first-hand look at the improvements over the past year. CHTA Marketplace is also the major “glue” that keeps this very diverse membership together.
BTN: What is your vision of tourism and hospitality in the Caribbean?
JF: I would like the Caribbean to be regarded as the most accessible and fun warm weather destination in the northern hemisphere. This vision is driven by our unique geography (beaches and mountains), culture (music and dance), food and easy going lifestyle (friendly people). As a region, we have more diversity to offer than any other place on earth.
(Right: Seaviews at Jamaica’s Round Hill)
BTN: What trends in tourism do you predict for 2010?
JF: 2010 will continue to be a challenging year for Caribbean tourism. There will be opportunities for growing market share from North America due to our “closeness” to that market and the perception of the Caribbean as a non-threatening and safe destination. It also offers good value in many of the newly-opened all-inclusive hotels. In Europe, the Caribbean will benefit from a renewed interest of the airlines to re-establish more flights into the region due to the downturn of business on the North Atlantic routes. In Europe, a real challenge will be the introduction of excessive passenger charges which relate to CO2 emissions by certain countries, such as the UK.
BTN: What kind of year do you envisage 2010 to be for Round Hill?
JF: RH had a reasonably successful 2009. Same will be expected in 2010. Our winter season has started strong and will continue to provide us with the revenues to “sit-out” and get through a difficult and most competitive summer season.
(Left: Pineapple House at Round Hill)
BTN: What is your strategy for dealing with the global downturn? And how does it shape your role at CHTA, as well as at Round Hill?
JF: RH prepared for a most difficult year in late 2008 and we cut costs drastically to minimize the impact to our bottom line. Our estimates and early actions proved correct and we ended the year with better than expected profits. Focus on our core audience (high-end US east coast, UK and Europe) in our winter/peak demand season as well as working with niche markets (e.g. destination weddings, family reunions) during the summer will continue to be the driving force for business for 2010 for RH.