Exclusive Interview With Alec Sanguinette of the Caribbean Hotel Association

The CHA has recently become recognised as the representative of the Caribbean hospitality industry as well as THE private sector developmental partner by active international agencies in the region. In an exclusive interview,
Alec Sanguinette, Director and Deputy Director General for the CHA, describes plans for the development of the Caribbean as a tourist region.

Q. You have clearly addressed the issue of advocacy for the development of Tourism in the Caribbean Region. What are your plans for the CHA campaign?

A. We plan to start the television advertising in the USA in the last week of February and then to break the advertising campaign in the United Kingdom in the third quarter of this year.

We have already tested the creative in the UK and we have had positive results on that, so we know it?fll work in both areas, (with a little adjustment for the UK).

Q. Regarding the development of a private label, what will be your call to action


A. In terms of a call to action, we will have a website, but we are developing this private label. We have an RFP in the USA right now, linking to the major tour operators. Travelocity and Expedia have also shown an interest and we intend to do the same in the UK.

We will then develop private labels with the selected tour operator. This means that the website will feature the special packages created for this programme

The call to action will say ?eCall your Travel Agents, or visit us on our website`. So both the travel agent and the consumer will have access to the packages.

The Caribbean Region has always strongly supported the travel agent and continues to do so. But, as you know, website bookings are a developing situation and we have to recognise that.

Q. So you are planning to develop your website booking facilities?

A. Yes, we recognise that we have to respond to the market needs.

Q. How will this development take place?

All the partners who are involved; hotels, attractions and Governments have come in on a pay to play basis. Our website will then be hotlinked to their individual websites.

Q. Are you going to be looking at multi-lingual facilities?

A. Yes, certainly for the prime countries, Germany, Italy, and France.

Q. China is becoming an increasingly important marketplace for the tourism industry. Have you considered targeting Asia?

A. At this stage we haven?ft cast the net that far in terms of marketing with China.

We do certainly consider Latin-America to be a definite market for us. Of course there is the situation in Latin America, but you can?ft ignore that. You have to take that into consideration along with the economic situation in Argentina, but these things are cycles. So you?fve got to get the programmes into place first and then you can get the business,

Q. What percentage of expenditure will go towards online marketing?

A. The total budget for the first 12 months media budget is about 16 million dollars. The majority of that naturally being the North American marketing. We have not actually determined the monetary allowance for the internet marketing, but it will be sufficient to create the platform that we need to start.

Q. Have you considered features such as virtual tours either now, or for the future?

Not at this stage, but certainly in in the future because it is going to be a very aggressive and comprehensive marketing plan

But our list of priorities is this: Firstly to get the membership into it, and raising money, secondly, to get the programme started. Only then will we add the bells and whistles. It?fs like starting a car. The first thing you need is a battery and fuel and then you turn the ignition. You add everything afterwards. You?fve got to get the consumer advertising program off the ground first.

Q. How highly will the internet feature in terms of components for this programme.

A. Our aim is that when a potential customer decides to come and visit the Caribbean, they can look at a menu and say “I?fm going to Aruba and I?fm interested in diving, so I need some information”. So we can then send, as an example, the respective information to all the dive members who have joined the programme and say John Smith is interested in diving, please supply him with information.

The same goes for all the other niche markets. Through the website we will then be able to link these specific niche markets to our partners. So before leaving, you can plan your holiday in much greater dealer. You will even be in touch with the supplier of the actual product.

So yes, internet marketing is going to be a very strong component for this programme and as you know, marketing is becoming a one to one relationship and it is establishing that relationship that is so important.