Last November, the new Caribbean Tourism Organisation secretary general Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace spearheaded the region’s presence at London’s World Travel Market, his singular message—one Caribbean, one voice.This is a campaign he is also heralding in 2006, kicking off at January’s Caribbean Marketplace in San Juan, Puerto Rico, with a unified approach to marketing the region under one banner.
“There is a natural tendency to spend time in the region as a whole, not just one island,” says Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, secretary general of the Carribean Tourism Organization (CTO).
“And now governments and the private sector have common expectations from the tourism sector.”
This was reiterated with the “Caribbean Village” theme at the World Travel Market (WTM) that encompassed all the region’s exhibitors and received great feedback from both visitors and the industry.
In particular, the street party was a marked success reinforcing the Caribbean’s reputation for hospitality. This positivism has set the scene for 2006—a year that Vanderpool-Wallace is optimistic about.
“There is a great opportunity in the Caribbean at the moment. There has been a large investment in infrastructure—so there is a great focus on change and the capacity is now better,” Vanderpool-Wallace.
“Business is going to be strong for 2006. Many people already know about the variety in the Caribbean and many others tend to be repeat visitors coming back to collect other destinations.”
One area that Vanderpool-Wallace is keen to promote is the shift to selling vacation experiences rather than relying on room rates, pool sizes and pictures of white sandy beaches to promote a destination.
“Destinations are realizing the importance of selling experiences to vacation-goers. For the Caribbean this is easy, it is about describing the reality,” he explains.
“Testimonials are very important in this process. Journalism, as well as advertising will also evolve to promote experiences.”
Many in the region are hoping that this year’s hurricane season will not be as bad as 2005, which was one of the worst on record.
The CTO secretary-general has already emphasised the region’s need for a single response system instead of a “tower of Babel” situation where different systems are used.
“Individual countries are doing things with their warnings. And hurricane forecasting is very good in the region and the fall off in tourist traffic has been minimal,” he reiterated.
“We are advising countries to be far better prepared and to send pictures, as well as post then on websites to reiterate that many areas not affected.”
Vanderpool-Wallace has also told the press that disaster preparedness calls for “a core set of activities to make sure we’re going to mitigate the effects of it in the smallest (countries) among us, and thereafter begin to build on it”.
Vanderpool-Wallace was appointed to the position of Secretary General of the Caribbean Tourism Organization in June 2005 after serving as Director General of the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism for 12 years.
The Caribbean Tourism Organization has also been active in other areas in recent months and has signed an agreement with the Caribbean Hotels Association to establish service and accommodation standards.
At the end of April the Caribbean Tourism Organization, in collaboration with the Puerto Rico Tourism Company, will host the 8th Annual Caribbean Conference on Sustainable Tourism Development.
The theme of the event will be ” Keeping the Right Balance: Economic Progress and Sustainable Tourism.” The conference will focus on the economic benefits of sustainable tourism and its contribution to the development of society.
Presenters will focus on sustainable tourism best practices, while delegates discuss case studies.