Caribbean holidays are competing not just with other vacation hotspots, but with home improvements and staycations as travellers tighten their belts in the current economic climate, a regional tourism conference heard last week.
The state of Caribbean travel and tourism was discussed at the annual Caribbean Marketing Conference, part of Caribbean Week held in New York last week.
On Friday, the keynote speaker Philip Wolf, president and CEO of PhoCusWright Inc. and a panel of travel industry experts discussed the economic climate’s effects on travelers and what the future holds for travel industry professionals.
During his discussion, Mr. Wright stressed that Caribbean holiday centres needed to embrace modern technology as consumers more frequently use social media as a research tool when booking vacations and hotels.
He also emphasised the importance of Caribbean destinations working together as a region rather than individual islands competing with one another.
He noted that ‘a new revolution is dawning’ and that the industry must adapt to the changing times if it is to continue succeeding.
Another panel discussion focused on the mindset of the modern vacation traveller who wants to do more with less money. The panel was moderated by David Pavelke, travel director of Google, and panellists included Noreen Courtney-Wilds, vice president of sales and distribution for JetBlue Airways Corporation, Paul Gilberto, executive vice president and chief brand development officer for Fitzgerald+CO and Laurdes Hainlin, director of Starwood Caribbean Collection.
Topics included how to position a brand to today’s consumer, pricing rooms and packages with value-added details, and consumers’ spending habits.
Hugh Riley, interim secretary general of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation said the conference was a highly anticipated part of Caribbean Week.
‘The presentations provoked stimulating conversation surrounding what lies ahead for the Caribbean and the travel industry in general and I thank all the talented members of the panel, as well as Philip Wright, for such a successful conference.’
The Caribbean Tourism Organisation, which is headquartered in Barbados with marketing operations in New York, London and Toronto, is the Caribbean’s tourism development agency and comprises membership of more than 30 governments and private sector entities.
Caribbean Week was held between 8-12 June in Manhattan, New York. The week-long event featured celebrity chef demonstrations, keynote speakers, informational seminars and cultural entertainment in its bid to raise awareness of the Caribbean as a prime vacation destination for tri-state area travel.
Mr. Riley said the week had been a success. ‘Not only did Caribbean Week encourage travel to the region, it served as an opportunity to highlight the diversity of individual Caribbean countries while also underscoring the importance of the New York metro area tourism market.’
More than 1,500 people attended the Caribbean Travel and Cultural Fair at the Manhattan Center where they enjoyed authentic Caribbean fare while gaining product information about various destinations within the region.
Highlights of the fair included a Caribbean Vacation Mart where consumers could purchase vacations at reduced prices.
One lucky couple also were treated to an authentic Caribbean wedding. MarryCaribbean.com sponsored a lavish wedding ceremony for Brian and Lisa Rawson who won an all-expenses paid honeymoon to the British Virgin Islands, wedding bands courtesy of the United States Virgin Islands, cake cutting ceremony sponsored by St. Kitts and a composite vase with special gold finish by award-winning Jamaican artist David Sinclair.
The Marketing Conference coincided with the first-ever Caribbean Meeting and Incentive Travel Showcase, which targeted the meeting, incentive, conference and exposition markets.
The Allied Awards Luncheon followed where several people were honoured for their contributions to promoting the Caribbean, including Michele M. Paige, president of the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association, recipient of the ‘Jerry’ Award; Dave Price, weather anchor of the CBS Early Show, who received the Allied Award; William B. Rodgers, Air Jamaica’s senior director, Government and Community Affairs and recipient of the Marcella Martinez Award; and Senior Editor Joe Pike of Travel Agent magazine, recipient of the Marcia Vickery Travel Journalism Award.
The week’s activities culminated in 36th Annual Governments of the Caribbean State Ball at The Plaza Hotel, a black-tie gala featuring Caribbean food and entertainment.