Three days of intense discussions which will influence the future of Caribbean tourism began on St. Thomas USVI, yesterday with the opening of the 26th annual Caribbean Tourism Conference (CTC-26), which comes at one of the most challenging periods in the more than fifty-year history of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO).
Some 600 delegates, including ministers, commissioners and directors of tourism, travel agents, hoteliers, cruise operators, tourism suppliers and industry professionals, gather at the Marriott Frenchman’s Reef Resort from Oct. 16 - 18 to explore various strategies to build on the positive signs of recovery that are emerging in the region’s tourism industry.
“Today, the travel industry is focused on recovering from so many obstacles, such as a difficult world economy, the threat of terrorism and conflict, and global health issues,” said Jean Holder, CTO’s secretary general while speaking of the theme of this year’s conference, Recovery and Growth in a Fiercely Competitive Environment.
“This is a crucial time for Caribbean tourism. The industry has gone through some very tough times in the last two years and we face an enormous challenge of nurturing it back to prosperity. We are excited about the excellent opportunity that CTC-26 will offer the region’s public and private sectors to formulate innovative strategies to keep the Caribbean competitive in global tourism,” he added.
The latest statistics compiled by the CTO’s Research and Information Management Division indicate that stay-over arrivals to the region increased by 3 percent in May, 6 percent in June and 6 percent in July, compared to the corresponding months in 2002. Overall, tourist arrivals for the summer were better than the 2002 level by an estimated 5 percent.
“CTO and its membership are hoping that CTC-26 can set the platform from which to sustain this recovery and to generate new and exciting ideas on how to grow and thrive in a highly competitive environment,” stated Karen Ford-Warner, deputy secretary general of CTO.
CTO and the USVI department of tourism have prepared an exciting programme for the three-day event, with general sessions that focus on some of the hottest, most instructive and provocative issues facing Caribbean tourism today.
A range of dynamic and knowledgeable experts in the fields of travel and tourism, many of whom have extensive experience in successfully nurturing their companies, destinations and products through difficult times, have been carefully chosen to present practical suggestions on how the region’s tourism sector can grow amidst fierce competition.
“CTC-26 will be special,” added Hugh Riley, CTO’s director of marketing for the Americas. “It will provide an excellent opportunity for the regional public and private sectors to evaluated the immense challenges that confront Caribbean tourism and to seek to chart new courses for the future.”
Professor Rex Nettleford, vice chancellor of the University of the West Indies (UWI) will deliver the keynote address at the opening of the conference on Oct. 16th, while Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines will deliver the feature address at a luncheon on Oct. 18th.
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