The movers and shakers of the Caribbean tourism industry are currently embroiled in deep discussion.
Caribbean Travel Marketplace has been taking place at Atlantis Resort in Nassau since Sunday, 20 January, and it marks the meeting of suppliers, attractions, destinations, tourist boards and stakeholders in the Caribbean’s tourism sector both private and public.
The two-day event is an opportunity for suppliers and buyers to meet face to face and negotiate deals that will impact the tourism product for the year ahead and beyond. The gathering is considered to be the first major opportunity to lay down strategy and services.
Suppliers such as hotels, resorts, destinations and agents purchase booths, at which appointments for meetings take place with registered delegates. Over the course of the event, as many as 88 separate appointments can take place, each 20 minutes long. There are also regular networking opportunities during special lunches, dinners and social occasions, during which more informal meetings occur. The Cayman Islands Department of Tourism is represented at the event, alongside private companies including Sunshine Suites, theReef Resort and Tropicana Tours.
“The Caribbean Travel Marketplace has become the largest and most important business-to-business marketing event for the Caribbean region’s hotel and tourism industry,” said Shomari Scott, director of the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism. “By bringing together buyers, such as wholesalers) and suppliers (which includes Hotel and accommodations sector representatives, participants are able to meet face-to-face to negotiate the best deals, develop packages and confirm the future business that will shape travel bookings for 2013 and beyond.
“Since the global economic collapse that forced consumers to tighten their belts and think twice about spending money on an exotic warm weather vacation, trade shows such as Marketplace play a vital role in facilitating business opportunities to bring much needed tourist dollars back to the Caribbean,” Mr. Scott added. “Although the Department of Tourism team remains in regular communication with our tourism partners throughout the year, attending Marketplace provides the added benefit of meeting with a range of tour operators wholesalers, incentive buyers, meeting planners and dive shop owners to strengthen our relationships and communicate our strategy.
“Moreover, since last year’s event brought together more than 700 supplier delegates with 142 buyer companies, and 12,250 pre-scheduled appointments took place over the course of two days, we are looking forward to promoting the Cayman Islands to a diverse audience in order to bolster future business and drive stay-over visitation to our shores,” Mr. Scott said.
Paul Robinson is marketing director at theReef and a self-described part of “Team Cayman” at the event. Mr. Robinson said that he rated the conference as “an interesting gathering of all the major players that produce for the Caribbean”.
“It is a time to get great feedback on how Cayman is perceived by the marketplace each year. Cayman has one great advantage over many of the other destinations, we have a continuity in our cast of characters. My good friend Laura and her staff at the Marriott do a great job. Trina Gordon over at Sunshine Suites, the same.
“Most of our properties are represented by people recognised in the trade. I arrived with Methuselah! Shomari [Scott, director of tourism] and his team are well known. It is great to be a part of a wining team, year after year. Cayman is known as a destination that does it right. [L]ike any family, we have our internal disagreements, [but] that is healthy sometimes,” Mr. Robinson told the Compass.
As well as the supplier-buyer appointments, there are round table discussions and seminars. The “Revolution Sessions”, as they are dubbed, discuss “selling to the Caribbean digital traveller in 2013”. During those sessions, delegates learned how to increase visitation and direct bookings with the latest digital marketing techniques
“Technology continues to revolutionise the way Caribbean travel is researched, booked, consumed and shared,” read the associated document. “There’s a huge opportunity for travel marketers who embrace the latest trends and tech. Are you keeping up?” This covered proven technology tactics that affected the bottom line, Internet marketing tools, how to avoid wasting money on digital marketing and case studies on successful techniques that have been proven to work for Caribbean marketers.