By Ben KilbeyJulia Hendry, the Caribbean Tourism Organisation’s Director of Marketing for Europe, indicated how positive 2005 looks for the Caribbean at an informal meet-and-greet hosted at Quod restaurant on London’s Haymarket, Tuesday May 10. Speaking to a crowd that consisted of some 22 island representatives, Hendry cited that after a slow down running up to the recent election, ‘things are now beginning to pick up again and we are looking towards a strong summer and winter season.‘The meeting was a chance for the media and island representatives to meet and talk of current developments.
Speaking earlier in the year with Caribbean Travel News, Julia answered some questions relating to what initiatives would be forefront, expected levels of growth from the UK and the importance of technology in marketing the region:
What are your key objectives for 2005?
Obviously 2004 was a very good year for the Caribbean. Figures were very positive. 2005 looks set to be as strong, if not stronger. We will continue working with the trade and continue to push our award winning training manual to agents and tour operators. In 2005 it would be beneficial to see more unison in the private and public sector as joint efforts are greater then a single effort.
How much growth do you predict out of the UK and which destinations do you expect to see largest growth?
Basically that all comes down to airlift. Traditional Caribbean destinations such as Barbados, St. Lucia and Antigua are well served with airlift from the UK, also the Dominican Republic and Cuba are doing very well indeed. People are starting to visit other regions and there is a lot of interest in the new Grenada when is reappears. We are noticing a large interest in the family market, this is certainly a growing market. Also In 2004 the Caribbean became back in vogue with increased publicity from celebrities.
How important is the subject of sustainable tourism for the Caribbean?
Sustainability is a key objective for the CTO, it is important to create a tourism model that is beneficial for the good of the people - a sustainable tourism model for the people of the Caribbean.
How important is diving in bringing UK and European clients to the Caribbean?
The dive market is a growing market, the Caribbean is synonymous with water sports, and diving is key to a lot of different destinations. One thing we will be looking at very carefully in 2005 is soft adventure - we are carrying out an EU funded study. Diving is a very important component of the soft adventure programme.
How important will technology be for marketing and distributing the Caribbean in 2005?
It was extremely important in 2004 and will be more so in 2005 - we will be advancing at a rapid rate. The Internet is a key source of information and online we will have price comparisons, destination comparisons and so forth. With accommodation we will be looking at converting interest into bookings for smaller hotels.
What about branding in the UK?
The Caribbean has two taxis out and about across London - both in a generic style. The USVI are looking at expanding on this. We will be active at a number of trade shows and working on a number of trade advertorials. The CTO will be working to increase market share from the north of England and also in Ireland. Our Internet figures are up considerably each month and therefore we have stepped up special offers. We have retained BGB as our PR in the UK and are very happy with what they have helped us to achieve.
Finally, what can be done to govern the cruise sector and create a better equilibrium between land and cruise based tourism?
Different destinations implement different taxes on the cruise sector. At the end of 2004 the cruise ships were working more closely with the CTO and relationships have improved following a lot of discussions. The Caribbean certainly benefits from the cruise lines - the key is to sustaining visitor arrivals. It is necessary for an education process to teach passengers of benefits of each individual destination. It comes back to sustainability - the islands benefit, the locals benefit if there is a conversion to visitors coming back and staying on their next holiday.
With thanks to Julia Hendry.