January 22, 2012
Honorable Prime Minister, and with your permission I will adopt the protocol that has been established.
It is my pleasure to welcome all of you to Caribbean Travel Marketplace 2012.
This marks the 30th consecutive year that CHTA has held the event. It remains the region’s most important and largest marketing convention and the single most important CHTA benefit for our hotel members.
You may have noted that I referred to Marketplace as Caribbean Travel Marketplace – this is the new name for the event as it better describes the function of Marketplace – similar to CHTA having added the ‘T’ for Tourism to its name. Of course those that have been attending the event for 30 years still call the event simply “CHA”…
I am pleased to report to you that Caribbean Travel Marketplace is as strong as ever and registration numbers compared to last year are very encouraging. We will have full details on this at our press conference tomorrow morning.
Caribbean Travel Marketplace 2012 has been organized and hosted by:
o The Minister of Tourism for The Islands of the Bahamas
o The Paradise Island Promotion Board
o The Bahamas Hotel Association
o MasterCard International
o Virgin Holidays
o and the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association
I would like to extend a warm welcome to all delegates attending and a special welcome to our 350 Buyers from 18 Countries. According to our colleagues at the Caribbean Tourism Organization, 2010 was a record year for ‘stop-over’ arrivals with 23.1 million visitors. Their forecast for 2011 is for 4% growth for another record of 24.0 million arrivals.
There is no question that our Buyers who are attending Caribbean Travel Marketplace are in large part responsible for these encouraging and welcome statistics. The Caribbean remains the most tourism-dependent region in the world and the substantial volume of transactions – generated by the 15,000 appointments – that will take place here over the next two days will bolster the Caribbean nations’ economies directly resulting in a better standard of living for our Caribbean citizens. A big thank you to our Buyers for their continuing support of the Caribbean
That said, it would be remiss of me not to mention that CHTA continues to advocate strongly on behalf of the tourism industry. Through our advocacy program – Tourism Is Key – we have now run this tourism promotion and awareness campaign in eleven countries.
The 4 pillars of the “Tourism is Key” campaign are:
– Advocacy with governments and citizens
– Linkages of tourism into local industry, agriculture and services
– Regional integration (improved airlift, less bureaucracy for regional travel)
– Regional marketing
There has to be a strong consensus of our leaders and the public so that travel and tourism will receive the full support it needs as the Caribbean’s most vital export industry. It is the fastest way to create jobs, grow the economy and generate income for all. Every citizen needs to understand that, whether or not he or she works directly in the tourism areas, every tourist’s dollar brings economic and social benefits to every level of our society.
It should be noted that the linkage between the tourism sector and our local industry, agriculture and services is very strong. According to the hotel spend study that CHTA commissioned; over half of our vegetables, dairy products, meat products and alcohol are locally sourced. Not to mention 100% of our utilities and information technology.
Regarding the all-important subject of airlift:
There are no ‘drive-ins’ in the Caribbean – most of our guests arrive by air. CHTA estimated that in 2010 the Caribbean governments collectively paid $45 million to secure air-lift – only to find that our airlift is still inadequate and way too expensive for our visitors.
Furthermore intra-Caribbean tourism once represented 13% of the region’s tourism; as much as Canada. The combined population of Caribbean countries is 40 million. However, due to the lack of a competitive and truly regional airline, regional tourism has been suffocated by outrageous ticket prices and a cumbersome and ill-conceived network.
Caribbean nationals cannot travel freely between their countries without being subjected to visas, long immigration lines and other bureaucratic indulgences that stifle any sense of hospitality, the Caribbean’s trade-mark.
We need to establish the very BEST welcome and farewell to all our visitors as well as returning residents within the Caribbean. This must be a “call to action” to all governments and airport operators to focus on this issue. Too often, we hear that long lines, antiquated bureaucracy and surly attitudes are commonplace in our islands ….this is NOT acceptable.
In regard to the fourth pillar of ‘Tourism Is Key’ – regional marketing – I have good news to report:
The Caribbean tourism industry’s marketing and business development unit, CTDC, has taken an important step towards re-launching its vacation website, CaribbeanTravel.com and has made a significant financial commitment to redesign and rebuild the site which will be re-launched in August this year.
In closing, I would like to thank our Strategic Partners and our many sponsors that have supported CHTA and Caribbean Travel Marketplace and also to recognize the vital contribution from our hosts, The Islands of the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism the Bahamas Hotel Association, Paradise Island Promotion Board, MasterCard and Virgin Holidays.
Have a very successful and enjoyable time at Caribbean Travel Marketplace and all the best for 2012.