The Caribbean Tourism Development Company recently held a Caribbean Public Relations Council meeting bringing together more than 40 public relations agencies representing 14 destinations and dozens of hotel companies along with National Tourist Office representatives from nine nations to discuss how they can work together to promote the region and the new Caribbean Travel website to be launched 28 February.
The Caribbean Public Relations Council, originally launched by Richard Kahn, president of KTCpr, in 1999 to assist in regional marketing initiatives was active in promoting the region following economic downturns after 9/11 and again after the Iraq War started in 2003.
“It’s no news to anyone in this room that the Caribbean is more economically dependent on tourism than any other region in the world,” said Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace. “By and large, it is tourism that paves our roads, builds our schools, builds our hospitals and allows us to make progress in the world.
“But we in tourism are not without some significant assets in carrying this burden of responsibility,” he added. “A few years ago, the Caribbean Tourism Organisation made the point that the Caribbean was the world’s best known unowned brand. Everyone from China to Cameroon knows the Caribbean but no one owns it.
“We are also aware that brands belong to categories,” Mr. Vanderpool-Wallace said. “In the same way that Mercedes is associated with fine automobiles and Fendi with fine women’s accessories, our good fortune and good news is that Caribbean is associated with wonderful vacation experiences. So it is fitting for the tourism sector to own, promote, advance and enhance the Caribbean brand. In fact, the even better news is that “the Caribbean” is more highly regarded for vacations than any of the individual constituent countries.”
United States of the Caribbean
Mr. Vanderpool-Wallace added that there was only one Caribbean and that the private-public sector spirit of full cooperation and coordination was at the heart of all that is done in tourism in the Caribbean. Today, the memorandum of understanding and joint cooperation between the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association and Caribbean Tourism Organisation was being hailed as the model document for private-public sector cooperation in tourism, he noted.
“Those few years ago, we also mused aloud about how wonderful it would be if this one brand had one logo, one website and one marketing unit. Then we asked: ‘Suppose there was a “United States of the Caribbean” what would it look like?’
“We told people that the United States of the Caribbean would have a population larger than that of Canada and larger than that of the state of California. The United States of the Caribbean would win the Summer Olympics every four years hands down. The United States of the Caribbean would win the Miss Universe/Miss World competitions every other year.
“The United States of the Caribbean would win a Nobel Prize at least once a decade. Our citizens would appear on the Forbes list of the 400 richest people in the world. In fact much of the development of the United States of America is owed to people from the Caribbean. Clearly, the United States of the Caribbean can be a formidable player on the world stage,” he said.
Besides finding that the perception of “the Caribbean” was more positive than any of the constituent states, research conducted in late 2012 found that the Caribbean was the most desired foreign trip for US citizens, he said. That research also reconfirmed a finding that has long been known but rarely utilised: it found that warm weather vacationers are island collectors. No matter how wonderful their vacation was in one destination, they often would travel elsewhere in succeeding years, returning to the original destination years later.
“Under these circumstances it is most important that the experience in our destinations is such that the traveller recommends it to their friends and relatives. But let’s work together to get them to collect the islands and destinations of the Caribbean,” Mr. Vanderpool-Wallace said.