The Caribbean tourism sector is looking to put the disaster of 2017 behind it as it looks forward to 2018 with “optimism and excitement”.
In a New Year message, Secretary General of the Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) Hugh Riley said while 2017 was a challenging year, mainly due to the damage caused by hurricanes Irma and Maria, which “not only destroyed property, but also took the lives of many of our citizens”, there was reason to be optimistic about next year.
Riley said he was confident those affected by the storms would recover, and that guests planning their trip to the hurricane-affected islands next year and beyond should expect to see “a product that is rebuilt stronger, better and even more attractive” than before.
“That’s the plan, however long it takes to deliver,” he stressed.
“Travellers coming to the countries that were impacted by the storms will now see various stages of the rebuild/recover effort. Some are already fully up to speed and ready for the winter, others, only partially so. Our affected islands respect the safety and security of guests and staff and are therefore being frank and open about their state of readiness,” the CTO boss said.
With tourism being the main economic driver for most of the Caribbean, Riley said the CTO would continue to place “enormous emphasis on delivering value and a superb visitor experience”.
In his New Year’s message, the region’s top tourism official also expressed thanks to CTO member countries, partners and other stakeholders for their assistance to those destinations affected by the hurricanes and to the efforts of the regional tourism organization.
“We want to thank the media that have, for the most part, painted a proper picture of our region that is clearly open for business. Through it all, we are also eternally grateful to our visitors and to the Caribbean Diaspora who stand shoulder to shoulder with our region in times of need,” he added.
Turning his attention to the successes of the year that was, Riley said a number of initiatives were started, including a strategies to “substantially enhance the Caribbean’s engagement in Canada, to develop business in non-traditional areas and work closely with our members’ representatives for maximum impact”.
There were also new travel agent training and certification, increased use of targeted social media, enhanced deployment of the CTO’s data analysis tools, and more focused engagement with the Caribbean diaspora, especially in Canada, which showed a 6.4 per cent increase in visitor arrivals to the region this year.
“We also continued to focus on our two primary markets, the United States and Europe, with the UK, in particular, taking a central role. These markets were more robust in 2017 and we trust this will continue in 2018,” he said.
“We realized too, that intra-Caribbean tourism, which has also been on the rise, would need our continuous attention, especially under the current circumstances where the task of educating the travelling public and removing the barriers to intra-Caribbean travel will continue to be a challenge,” Riley added.
The CTO had dubbed 2017 the Year of Adventure in the Caribbean. Next year will be the Year of Rejuvenation.
“With wellness and rejuvenation being important aspects of the Caribbean tourism product, we are encouraging our member countries and private sector partners to plan and organize events and activities around that theme,” he advised.
“For travellers who focus on renewing body and spirit, the options are virtually endless; from beachfront workouts and yoga retreats, to wellness resorts and spa treatments, the notion of being rejuvenated in the Caribbean is one more reason to let us pamper you in 2018,” the tourism chief added.