By Ben KilbeyImagine being coined St. Lucia’s foremost small hotelier. Imagine meeting the Queen and being awarded an MBE. Imagine empowering your peers within the Caribbean tourism industry and bringing a passion to the business that is second-to-none. Imagine being so infectious on meeting that people cannot help but be engaged by your intelligent rhetoric and love for the Caribbean tourism industry. Meet Berthia Parle, MBE, and imagine no more. Berthia - a living, breathing history maker, becoming the first female President of the Caribbean Hotel Association (CHA). A hard talking, hard smoking inspiration to the Caribbean tourism trade. This lady speaks her mind and when she speaks it all seems to make sense. Caribbean Travel News spoke to Berthia in this exclusive interview.A good starting point is the recent success of Caribbean Marketplace - this year hosted at Half Moon, Jamaica. It was a formidable event, exciting those in the industry and stirring up some new business opportunities.
“By all accounts this was definitely the best Caribbean Marketplace in the last 25 years. Jamaica was totally united, with the Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism making sure every single detail was taken care of. It really was hospitality at its best,”
“By all indications this was a very productive Marketplace. Even the smallest of hotels have reported business - there is resurgence in interest for the Caribbean. There is a reinvention in Caribbean tourism this was evident by the amount of interest shown by dotcom companies looking for Caribbean products at all levels. Traditionally the Caribbean has been a high end product but now there is interest at all levels. There is a definite atmosphere of unity and that was shown at Caribbean Marketplace,” enthused the Caribbean Hotel Association President.
“Hosting Marketplace at Half Moon was a great idea as there were plenty additional opportunities for networking. Personally I was very pleased with the event,” she added.
Some very important news came out of Marketplace that Virgin will be assisting small properties by incorporating them in a new brochure for free. This is a big step in assisting smaller properties who lack the cover that larger brands can command. It is a wonder that this has not been thought of before?
“Tour operators in the UK and EU in the past have been wary of smaller hotels because of the very high health and safety standards. However, a number of small hotels in the Caribbean have extremely high standards. During Marketplace there were discussions with Amanda Wills of Virgin Holidays and she had the ingenuity to realise that is unfair not to feature smaller hotels.”
“During Marketplace we tried to impress upon the need for smaller hotels to meet specific health and safety criteria - the need also to send health and safety officers to the Caribbean to carry out checks and ensure that small hoteliers are aware of what is necessary. This new brochure will have an exclusive structure and the first addition, hopefully going out this June (2005), will feature all of the smaller hotels that have met the criteria,” said Berthia.
Continue to make our own magic:
There are many exciting developments in the Caribbean at present. New spas, new resorts etc. Berthia is clear on what she envisages as exciting developments for the region
“In Jamaica the Spanish are moving in a big way and are opening up new markets for the island. This is good for Jamaica. I am particularly excited about the new Sandals White House opening on Jamaica’s south coast. It offers something for everybody. Since 9/11 families are travelling together more and more. The Caribbean supplies something for every member of the family. At the moment waterparks are in vogue and more are being constructed across the Caribbean. In St. Lucia Coconut Bay, which is owned by the Hendrickson family, will offer the largest waterpark in the entire eastern Caribbean - Coconut Bay is a wonderful family property.”
“Also in St. Lucia we have a large development called The Landings that is a US$160 million villa resort which is on the north shore of Rodney Bay. This will commence in November and it is projected to have the first phase open by February 2007. Properties at the Landings will provide accommodation for the up-an-coming 2007 World Cricket Cup,” concluded Berthia.
One thing that Berthia is adamant must continue so that the Caribbean continues to flourish is the fact that;
“We must maintain a precedence - and continue to make our own magic.”
The Caribbean certainly oozes a certain ‘natural mystic’. From the virgin beaches of Mustique to the frivolities of Jamaica and St. Lucia. The Caribbean boasts some of the best food, beaches and people in the world it is for this reason that something must be done preserve the natural wonder. Since last year, 19 new Caribbean properties have successfully obtained the coveted and demanding green globe 21 certification, elevating the number of Caribbean certified properties to 67 - a whooping 35% increase since last January.
“This is excellent news, my own Bay Garden has been certified, which I am very proud of, and also Sir. Royston Hopkin’s Spice Island on Grenada. It is a very useful new marketing tool for people who are interested in the environment and ecotourism,” stated the CHA President.
Continuing with what makes Bay Gardens so special Berthia enthused;
“We keep abreast of changes within the industry and we analyze our niche markets and give clients what they want.”
So how did Mrs. Parle feel when it came to receiving her MBE?
“It was an awesome moment in my life - it was very surreal. It was like dreaming and then I woke up and it was real! It was an honour to go to Buckingham Palace and meet the Queen - it was phenomenal meeting the Queen - I am honoured to be a member of her Majesty’s Kingdom!”
So there you have it!
The Caribbean’s day:
As the Caribbean continues be flooded with celebrity guests and travel magazines fill their pages with the regions azure blue seas and powder white sands - what are Mrs. Parles feelings for the regions future?
“This is the Caribbean’s day - we must take full of advantage of this. The winds of change are blowing in our direction. This will benefit all sectors and people of the Caribbean - we can be really creative and with the Cricket World Cup we can keep the Caribbean in the spot light. I am very excited about the future for the Caribbean.”
With thanks to Berthia Parle MBE.
For further information on the CHA visit: www.caribbeanhotels.org
For further information on the Caribbean visit: www.gocaribbean.com