As the Caribbean region consolidates the good start to the 2003-2004 winter season, top hotel industry executives are renewing the call for “across the board” support of the marketing initiative that has helped focus international attention on the region since its launch in the autumn of 2002.
Speaking ahead of the Caribbean Hotel Association’s (CHA) Marketplace, to open this evening in San Juan, its Director General Alec Sanguinetti says credit should be given to the joint public-private sector initiative “Life Needs for the Caribbean” for the increase in visitor arrivals the industry has experienced in recent months. He said industry officials must now band together to ensure that the momentum continues in the New Year.“With different regions of the world redoubling their marketing efforts to gain, and in some cases, regain lost market share of the world travel and tourism pie, we cannot afford to sit back and allow our bureaucracies to cripple the good thing which we have started,” said Sanguinetti of the campaign which is powered by booking engine www.gocaribbean.com and administered by the Caribbean Hotel Association Charitable Trust (CHACT).“It is a very serious situation. At a time when we should be exploiting this situation, we have no regional funds to spend on the regional campaign. It’s on hold (and) we are awaiting a new mechanism to raise funds,” said CHACT Chairman Ralph Taylor referring to the television advertising phase which produced such solid results.While participating in Counterpart International’s fifth Caribbean Media Exchange on Sustainable Tourism (CMEx) in Barbados last month, Taylor said the private sector has been playing its part and wants regional governments to press ahead with implementation of the proposed US $20 dollar cruise sector levy, which is being challenged by cruise officials whose companies rake in billions of profits from the region each year.“As a region, the Caribbean is a very diverse destination. The vagaries of international travel make it vital for us to use the strength of our diversity to meet the market demands - this event allows us to establish a diverse approach for new and expanding markets,” adds CHA President, hotelier Simon Suarez of the Dominican Republic, who is joining officials from the Caribbean travel and tourism industry converging on San Juan for Caribbean Marketplace.In addition to buyer-supplier negotiations and contract signings, organisers will put the spotlight on the web-based component of the regional campaign, www.gocaribbean.com, covering issues such as how to use the program’s custom extranet; how to manage rates and inventory; and exploring merchandising and marketing opportunities.“As the number of internet connections are increasing everyday, the GoCaribbean.com booking engine provides an invaluable tool for every tourism professional, and a tremendous opportunity, especially for small companies, to increase their business,” said Sanguinetti.