CTO Reports Sunny Outlook for Caribbean Tourism

Caribbean Tourism Organization reports uptick in tourism numbers

Caribbean Week CTO

While the Caribbean was impacted by the Zika outbreak last year, there are many reasons for a sunny disposition when it comes to tourism in the region, as well as meetings and group visitors. This was one of the major themes touched on by members of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) during its press conference on June 8, at the Wyndham New Yorker Hotel, as part of Caribbean Week festivities. Caribbean Week, held year in an effort to create excitement about the Caribbean and attract new people and groups to the region, included a number of events, such as a Student Colloquium, performances by Caribbean artists, and the lighting of the spire of the Empire State Building with Caribbean colors.

CTO Secretary General Hugh Riley introduced the new CTO chairman, Dionisio James D'Aguilar, the minister of tourism, aviation, and Bahamasair for the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism. D'Aguilar outlined the highlights of the previous week, including the endorsement of a collaboration with the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) to create a public-private tourism development and marketing initiative, as well as a five-year strategic plan for the organization, and endorsement of Jamaica as the host of the UNWTO Government of Jamaica and World Bank Group Conference on Jobs and Inclusive Growth on Nov. 27-29.

D'Aguilar provided generally positive news about the region's recent tourism performance, noting that in the first quarter of this year, destinations around the region saw 8.7 million international tourist arrivals -- 150,000 more compared to the same period last year, which was a 1.8 percent increase. The grouping referred to as "other Caribbean destinations" -- Cancun, Cozumel, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Surinam -- led growth with international tourism arrivals up 6.3 percent as of the end of March 2017. The other destinations did not fare as well, with only the French Caribbean recording an increase in international trips, and visitor arrivals dropping 1.3 percent in the other regions.

While the CTO does not collect specific numbers related to group travel or meetings, CHTA President Karolin Troubetzkoy said that from her perspective as a hotelier, "meetings and conference have come back to the region," though she added that, "we recognize that this is a segment that we can do much better with," and pointed to the annual Caribbean Marketplace held by the CHTA, which added a MICE element last year, as an example of that growing outreach effort.

Canadian tourism to the region was up 4.8 percent, Europe up 2.9 percent, and United States was up 1.3 percent. However, data compiled by STR Global Limited indicated that the hotel industry continued to struggle: While number of available rooms increased by 1.1 percent, room revenue, average daily rates and revenue per available room fell.

The organization also discussed upcoming events, among these the State of the Industry Conference, taking place in Grenada, for which Grenada Minister of Tourism Clarice Modeste-Curwen outlined her destination's attractions.

"We pride ourselves on being able to continue to entertain and keep our traditional guests who continue to return, but [also] new demographics, Millennials, and others," said Modeste-Curwen. "We will continue to ensure that every visitor has a wonderful experience."

The event began with Riley, on behalf of the CTO, signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the Travel Foundation, providing a framework for collaborating on the sustainable tourism development of the Caribbean. That means developing projects and initiatives, such as a free online training course aimed at "Road Map to Destination Success" with information on how destinations can embed sustainability into their management practices and benefits that organizations will gain. Since launching last month, more than 50 people have begun the course so far.

"Together we are stronger, we are smarter, and we can achieve a lot more," said Sallie Felton, CEO of Travel Foundation. "This MOU is an opportunity to bring the CTO, its members, and the Travel Foundation together to share our knowledge, to identify some of the biggest issues that are of interest to the Caribbean, and to find effective ways to tackle these issues and create a better future for tourism."