As The Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA) Marketplace closed its doors for the 30th time last week, the Caribbean is now preparing to reap the rewards of its premier marketing event.
Despite the significant challenges faced by the Caribbean travel and tourism industry the Caribbean tourism industry is pulling out all the stops, with a number of new initiatives this planned for this year, including a redesigned CaribbeanTravel.com and a brand new book that will commemorate the CHTA’s 50th birthday.
2010 was a record year for ‘stop-over’ arrivals to the Caribbean with 23.1 million visitors, according to the CTO. Their forecast for 2011 is for 4% growth for another record of 24.0 million arrivals.
The substantial volume of transactions that took place at the CHTA Marketplace are expected to bolster the Caribbean nations’ economies which will in a better standard of living for Caribbean citizens.
Despite the these positive figures combined with the CHTA’s tourism promotion and awareness campaign ‘Tourism Is Key’, the region still faces significant challenges.
Josef Forstmayr, President, CHTA highlighted these, claiming that “airlift is still inadequate and way too expensive for our visitors.”
He commented: “The combined population of Caribbean countries is 40 million. However, due to the lack of a competitive and truly regional airline, regional tourism has been suffocated by outrageous ticket prices and a cumbersome and ill-conceived network.”
In addition to airlift shortages, Government-imposed travel restrictions continue to have a negative impact on the travel and tourism industry.
Forstmayr added: “Furthermore intra-Caribbean tourism once represented 13% of the region’s tourism; as much as Canada.
“Caribbean nationals cannot travel freely between their countries without being subjected to visas, long immigration lines and other bureaucratic indulgences that stifle any sense of hospitality, the Caribbean’s trade-mark.”
But in the face of these challenges, CHTA 2012 was deemed to be a major success, with a 17 per cent increase (over 2011) in buyer companies with 142 in attendance, 11 of which were from Russia, as well as an increase in buyer delegates which totalled 344 versus 314 in 2011.
Alec Sanguinetti, Director General, Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association reflected on CHTA Marketplace 2012, emphasising the importance of the total experience for visitors.
“We have just over 12,000 delegates which is on par with last year but most importantly we have 142 buyer companies from 15 countries represented by 366 appointment taking delegates.
“The more we can broaden the visitor experience, not just stay in a hotel, but that total visitor experience, there are obviously spin off benefits for the visitor and the destination, in terms of visitor spend.”
The CHTA is also celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and will be launching a dedicated book to celebrate the milestone in June.
Sanguinette revealed: “We are commemorating the event by recording it in a book that is called ‘Pirates to hoteliers of the Caribbean’ and that book will be published this year.”
In other news, the Caribbean tourism industry’s marketing and business development unit, CTDC, is re-launching its vacation website, CaribbeanTravel.com in August.