After two days hard work on the conference floor it was time for attendees at the 30th annual Caribbean Marketplace to relax this evening, with a spectacular closing ceremony at the Atlantis Hotel, the Bahamas.
Hundreds of delegates – representing the upper echelons of the Caribbean tourism industry – were at the event, which marks the highlight of the industry calendar in the region.
Having begun with a spectacular opening ceremony on Sunday, the event this year welcomed a record 350 buyers from 18 countries.
The focus was on the importance of tourism to the Caribbean.
“There has to be a strong consensus of our leaders and the public so that travel and tourism will receive the full support it needs as the Caribbean’s most vital export industry,” said Josef Forstmayr, president of hosts Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA).
“It is the fastest way to create jobs, grow the economy and generate income for all. Every citizen needs to understand that, whether or not he or she works directly in the tourism areas, every tourist’s dollar brings economic and social benefits to every level of our society.”
World Travel Awards founder Graham Cooke presents George Markantonis, managing director of Kerzner International Bahamas, with the trophy for World’s Leading Casino Resort
But there was also work to be done.
Earlier in the day InterContinental Hotels Group revealed it will push its Holiday Inn brand into the Caribbean.
The recently launched Holiday Inn Resort Aruba and the soon-to-open Holiday Inn Resort Bridgetown, Barbados mark the debuts for the brand in the region.
Host island of Nassau, capital of the Bahamas, also received a boost, with JetBlue Airways and Delta Air Lines among the latest to increase their services destination.
“We are thrilled that our loyal visitors in the north-east will have even more flight options and the convenience of more daily, non-stop service to Nassau Paradise Island,” said Fred Lounsberry, chief executive of the Nassau Paradise Island Promotion Board.
“These new flights allow travelers to have breakfast at home and be on the beaches of Nassau Paradise Island by lunchtime.”
Island Routes general manger, David Shields, left, joins World Travel Awards founder Graham Cooke at Caribbean Marketplace 2012
In the technology sector, online travel giant Expedia revealed it has achieved significant growth for the Caribbean region in 2011, with notable room night growth to Curacao, Turks and Caicos, Barbados, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.
In the first three quarters of last year, revenue generated through Expedia by hotel partners in the Caribbean grew eight per cent in comparison with 2010.