Tourism ministers from across the Caribbean, along with leading lights from the travel and tourism industry, congregated at The Gaiety in Rodney Bay, St. Lucia, for the opening of Caribbean Marketplace 2009.
The idyllic island, which is playing host to the Caribbean’s top travel industry event for the first time, epitomises the “Business on the Beach” ethos, with tourism here the largest contributor to the nation’s national income, as well as its biggest employer.(Above: Prime Minister of St Lucia Hon. Stephenson King)
Last night, the overriding theme was how the Caribbean can use its underlying strengths to not only confront but grow its market share during the global downturn.
Keynote speaker, Senator Allen Chastanet, St Lucia Minister for Tourism & Civil Aviation, said: “We believe that our tourism sector is very dynamic with great potential for further development. We are also keenly aware that our tourism faces serious challenges, as new tourist destinations are generating ever fiercer competition to attract visitors.”
He added: “No one will deny that the times are challenging; the price of fuel is burgeoning, potential travelers’ homes are being foreclosed and investors are jittery about the financial markets. These challenges are understandably causing some anxiety among industry personnel. However, there is no need to panic, as challenges are nothing new to the travel and hospitality industry. I am nonetheless confident that we will rise above the current challenges.”
“Over the years the industry has weathered various crises; the industry has recovered from global recessions, terrorism in various parts of the world, and wars. Over the past two decades, the industry has generated unprecedented prosperity and seemingly boundless optimism.
(Above: cocktails by night)
In his opening address, the Prime Minister of St Lucia Hon. Stephenson King spoke of the importance of unity in the Caribbean region, and how the islands can work collectively to enhance the region’s position with the global market.
His nation, with its green rain forests and pristine sandy beaches, epitomises the underlying strength of the Caribbean product. His message was the need to focus on the positive, and look at the long-term, for a world-class destination will always emerge from a global downturn shining.
(Above: Keynote speaker Alec Sanguinetti, CEO and Director General for CHTA, on the opening night of Caribbean Marketplace 2009)
The shift towards more sustainable tourism also proved a key topic for the evening. National tourism authorities right across the Caribbean are playing more active roles in the sustainable development of the industry. As well as fulfilling customers’ increasing demand for green policies, the knock-on effect is also to create jobs, enhance exports, and generate revenues, particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises.
The evening was also about recognizing and rewarding those at the front line of region’s tourism. Albert Gurley, Head Houseman at Grenada’s Spice Island Beach Resort, was left speechless when he was named “Caribbean Employee of the Year for 2008”. The award was presented by Enrique De Marchena Kaluche, President of the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA), and CHTA Director General and CEO Alec Sanguinetti.
(Above: Albert Gurley from Grenada Spice Island Beach Resort winner of Employee of the Year Award and Phyllis Johnson-Smith from The Sheraton, Cable beach Resort, Bahamas winner of Supervisor of the Year Award)
Gurley was elated, saying: “A big thank you to Sir Royston and Lady Hopkin for motivating me to be an excellent worker at Spice Island Beach Resort for the past 22 years.”
He received a standing ovation for his speech during the ceremony, where he stressed the importance of setting a positive example in order to motivate future generations and encourage them not only to enter the tourism industry, but to excel in it.
“I share this award with my daughter who is now entering the hospitality field herself, so that she can recognize the benefits that can be derived from a job well done,” noted Gurley.
(Left: A traditional welcome to start Caribbean Marketplace 2009)