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Remarks by CTO Chair, Dionisio D’Aguilar Chairman, at WTM News Conference, November 2017

The Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens has been quoted so much over the years that it has become somewhat of a cliché. However, in the present context, it is a most appropriate cliché for our circumstances as the Caribbean has witnessed the proverbial tale of two cities during the past ten months or so. We had the best of times, with record performances in the first half of 2017, and for some of our member countries, and by extension the region, the worst of times with the passage of hurricanes Irma and Maria.

We began the year growing at a healthy pace of 5.2 per cent between January and June, when compared to the same period last year. This was ahead of the growth rate of 2.5 per cent to 3.5 per cent which had been our forecast and was a reflection of economic stability in the market, expansion and inauguration of flights by major carriers and new marketing and product development initiatives.

During this period the region recorded 16.6 million international tourist arrivals, some 800 thousand more than in the first six months of 2016. Growth was recorded in all major source markets except South America, which contracted by 14.3 per cent.  Up to June, the European market had grown by 7.9 per cent, Canada by 6.4 per cent, and despite the weak sterling, the UK grew by 4.8 per cent.

In the hotel industry, the half-year outcomes reported by STR Global showed that average occupancy increased marginally by 0.2 percentage points to 70.8 per cent, while the average daily room rate rose slightly by 0.2 per cent, moving from US$220.84 in 2016 to US$221.38 in 2017.

Growth in the cruise sector also remained positive and stronger than the expected performance in the first half of the year. At the end of the first six months of 2017, cruise passenger arrivals to the Caribbean region had reached an estimated 15.3 million, up four per cent over the corresponding period of 2016. This performance represented the largest number of cruise passengers in the region at this time of year.

Then came the hurricanes – first, Irma, then Maria – that inflicted such damage on some of our member countries, causing such despair!

There has been widespread coverage of the damage caused to these countries and territories, the most serious   among them being Anguilla, Barbuda, the British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Puerto Rico, both Dutch and French Saint Martin and the US Virgin Islands. Understandably, this triggered a slowdown, with travel to many of these destinations having been severely impacted. Consequently, we have revised our forecast for 2017 to between one and two per cent, with a similar growth rate projected for next year.

This is expected to have a significant economic impact, based on predictions by the Caribbean Development Bank; according to the CDB  every one per cent reduction in tourist arrivals could cost US$137 million in lost revenue. Our revised forecast is based on a number of factors, including figures provided by CTO’s partner, OAG, the air travel data provider based here in the UK. Data based on schedules that were provided to OAG by the airlines showed that in October the number of flights to the region fell by 6.7 per cent, while seat capacity contracted by 4.1 per cent.

Among the worst hit destinations, the frequency of flights to Puerto Rico decreased by 25.1 per cent, Dominica by 13.7 per cent, St. Maarten by 12 per cent, the British Virgin Islands by 11.2 per cent, Anguilla by 6.3 per cent and the  US Virgin Islands  by 5.6 per cent.  Seat capacity to all of these destinations was consequently adversely affected with St. Maarten experiencing a near 50 per cent falloff.

Some of these reductions were influenced by Hurricane Harvey, which hit the US mainland, but most were a direct result of Irma and Maria.

It must be noted, however, that Cuba’s capacity grew by 10 per cent despite changes to the schedule. The new services from the US are a major influence on this performance. The largest of the carriers based in the region, Caribbean Airlines and LIAT, both registered declines in capacity, with LIAT falling by 21.3 per cent and Caribbean Airlines by 9.5 per cent. However, overall, air capacity in the region grew by five per cent for the first nine months of 2017 when compared to the same period last year.

As for post-hurricane tourist arrivals, it is still too early to tell, since the October numbers are not yet in. However, with several of the key cruise destinations, including Puerto Rico, St. Maarten and the US Virgin Islands recovering from the impact of the hurricanes, cruise lines made changes to their itineraries  to include alternative regional ports which remained open.

These redeployments have benefited countries such as Curacao, which registered a 138.3 per cent rise in cruise passenger arrivals in September, Jamaica (54.1 per cent), the Cayman Islands and Grenada.

You would have noticed that we predict growth in tourist arrivals this year, albeit slower than expected, which could still mean new record performance for the Caribbean despite the storms. This is mainly due to the fact that some 75 per cent of the Caribbean was unscathed by the hurricanes and continued to welcome visitors.

And, if we are to return to Dickens, there is prodigious strength in sorrow and despair, as a brilliant people rise from this destruction and devastation, with the fighting spirit of the people of the Caribbean, ready to rebuild stronger and more sustainably than before.

Already, virtually all of the affected countries are reporting that they are open again for business, although not at full capacity, with every one of them planning some sort of event either later this year or early next year.

A separate document will be presented to you outlining the state of readiness of these countries.

Thank you all for coming and for helping spread the word that the Caribbean is open for business, and for reminding everyone that the best way to help the Caribbean is to travel to the Caribbean.

 

Posted in: 2017 News, Blog, Caribbean Recovery

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Barbados Wins Bid To Host 2018 Society of American Travel Writers Convention

November 1, 2017 (Portland, Ore.) – Today, the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) has selected the island of Barbados as the host destination for its 2018 annual convention. This is the first time that any Caribbean nation has been selected as the convention host destination. The announcement was made at the 2017 SATW Annual Convention held in Portland, Oregon, U.S.

SATW is a professional association comprised of 1,100 writers, photographers, editors, broadcast/video/film producers, bloggers, website owners, public relations experts and hospitality industry representatives from the United States and Canada. Founded in 1955, the society’s members represent some of the most influential content producers in the travel industry with work that can be seen throughout all print, digital and broadcast platforms.

“Barbados is a world class destination that is uniquely suited to host the conference in 2018. Despite the intense competition to host our organization, Barbados’ reputation as a bastion of story ideas for travel editors – both those in the U.S. and Canada – propelled its bid to the winning position. From its hotels to its unique attributes, we knew it was a place that would be interesting to our members,” said incoming SATW President, Barbara Orr.

“Hosting this convention in October 2018 will allow us to stimulate immediate social media coverage of Barbados prior to the kick-off of the winter travel season,” noted Petra Roach, Director, U.S., Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (BTMI). “These delegates influence thousands of our target consumers via their social media platforms every day, and we are designing our conference to maximize social media conversations.”

Furthermore, each journalist will be taken on thematic tours of the island, so that they can pursue story ideas for their print, broadcast and online media outlets, which will result in editorial coverage that tells the Barbados story to consumers for years to come.

Not only will BTMI leverage this platform to tell Barbados’ story, but BTMI is inviting Caribbean nations harmed during the 2017 hurricane season, who will be on the road to recovery by October 2018, to host pre/post trips as part of the official conference program.

“Barbados was fortunate to not endure the brunt of the recent hurricanes and has remained ‘open for business’,” noted Roach. “However we know that damage has been done to consumers’ perception of the Caribbean, and we see this as an opportunity to change the conversation to one about why consumers should consider travel to this region of the world,” she concluded.

Barbados has one of the strongest dollars in the Caribbean, a great education system, relatively low unemployment and is one of the safest Caribbean islands for visitors. These characteristics underscore a travel experience where visitors can enjoy rich authentic experiences. Barbados is replete with luxury hotels, unique attractions and beautiful beaches and hosts festivals throughout the year with everything from polo events in the winter and spring to its renowned Food & Rum Festival in the fall.

Posted in: 2017 News, Blog, Destination News

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St. Kitts Welcomes the Caribbean’s First Park Hyatt Hotel

Basseterre, St. Kitts (November 1, 2017) – St. Kitts is pleased to welcome the Park Hyatt St. Kitts Christophe Harbour, the Caribbean’s first Park Hyatt featuring the first Miraval Life in Balance Spa in the Caribbean, which officially opens today on the island’s southeast peninsula and brings a new level of luxury to the expanding tourism product.

“The debut today of Park Hyatt St. Kitts Christophe Harbour is a historical occasion for the island,” said Minister of Tourism, International Trade, Industry and Commerce the Hon. Mr. Lindsay F.P. Grant. “This elegant and sophisticated property brings the unparalleled Park Hyatt experience to St. Kitts as the brand’s first hotel in the Caribbean, which is a welcome addition to our existing accommodations product and to our overall island community.”

Racquel Brown, CEO of the St. Kitts Tourism Authority, added, “We are very pleased that the Park Hyatt St. Kitts Christophe Harbour opens today, as it increases the island’s appeal among those discerning destination travelers seeking experiential getaways who represent a key segment of our visitor market.”

Spanning the secluded beach of Banana Bay at the foot of the island’s lush rolling hills, the 126-room resort will enable guests to discover St. Kitts through sophisticated design, art, culinary experiences and immersive excursions. Home to three signature restaurants, two pools, a destination resort spa and wellness sanctuary, and indoor and outdoor event spaces, the resort introduces the Park Hyatt experience to the Caribbean. From the living walls of the distinctive entryway and throughout, all features of the resort have been thoughtfully and sustainably designed by Range Developments with local materials and unique water features to create an oasis in harmony with the surrounding environment.

All 78 rooms and 48 suites overlook the golden sandy beach and exceptional vistas greet guests at every turn. Each room showcases views of the Caribbean Sea and islands beyond with luxurious touches such as private balconies and terraces, local artwork, rain-showers and deep soaking tubs. Premium suites feature private rooftop swimming pools and sundecks. For the ultimate indulgence for discerning guests, the three-bedroom Presidential Villa is equipped with a private infinity pool, wellness area, personal butler and private chef.

The Park Hyatt St. Kitts Christophe Harbour has been developed as an integral part of the Christophe Harbour resort community. For more information about Park Hyatt St. Kitts Christophe Harbour or to make reservations, visit https://stkitts.park.hyatt.com/en/hotel/home.html, or visit www.ChristopheHarbour.com for more information about Christophe Harbour.

About St. Kitts:

Intoxicating natural beauty, sunny skies, warm waters, and sandy beaches combine to make St. Kitts one of the most seductive spots in the Caribbean. Located in the northern Leeward Islands, it offers a diverse tourism product developed from the destination’s natural beauty, cultural heritage and rich history.  The island’s stunning variety of tourism attractions include hiking or ziplining through the tropical rainforest, riding the scenic railway that connects the island’s former sugar plantations, visiting the Caribelle Batik factory, and touring Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park, which is an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Among the more traditional vacation pastimes available are water sports, golf, shopping, tennis, dining, gaming at St. Kitts’ exclusive casino or simply relaxing on the beach.

For more information about St. Kitts, visit www.stkittstourism.kn.

Posted in: 2017 News, Blog, Destination News

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CTO to Host Destination Showcase on Ubersoca Cruise 2017

Hamilton, Bermuda (31 October, 2017) – Ubersoca Cruise (USC), the largest Soca festival at sea, has partnered with the region’s tourism development agency, the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) for its 2017 cruise, which sails from Miami to Cozumel, Mexico, November 16 – 20. CTO will host a Destination Showcase onboard Ubersoca 2017, which will give passengers an insight into the diversity of the region and the attributes that make the Caribbean islands such a popular tourism destination.

The foundation for this partnership was laid when USC participated as a sponsor of CTO’s Caribbean Week New York in June of this year, and the onboard workshop is part of the collaboration arrangement.

The CTO workshop, which will be facilitated by Amanda Charles and Kennedy Pemberton of the CTO’s Sustainable Tourism Product Development Division, will feature highlights of ongoing CTO initiatives, information on Caribbean destinations as well as a Caribbean Trivia competition with exciting prizes to be won. The event will culminate with an open forum dealing with issues and opportunities in Caribbean Tourism, Music, Culture and Carnivals.

“The CTO is pleased to partner with Ubersoca Cruise as part of its continuing efforts to promote Caribbean Tourism, and initiatives such as the CTO Scholarship Foundation and Hurricane Relief fund. We salute the young entrepreneurs that have transformed a traditional tourism product into an authentic Caribbean cultural experience, and look forward to exploring this new frontier with the Ubersoca Team in adding value to the regional cruise tourism experience”. Amanda Charles, Sustainable Tourism Specialist, Caribbean Tourism Organization.

If you are interested in booking your cabin aboard Ubersoca Cruise 2017 please visit www.ubersocacruise.com.

About Ubersoca Cruise

Ubersoca Cruise is the first and only full cruise ship charter dedicated exclusively to soca music. The cruise sails from Miami Florida to Cozumel Mexico from November 16th – 20th 2017 and features over 60 of the best soca artists and DJs in the world. It all starts with the pre-cruise party in South Beach Miami Florida on November 15th 2017. In addition to multiple live concerts and themed events/parties, Ubersoca Cruise, offers a number of other activities and surprises which make it an ‘experience beyond the music’.

 

Posted in: 2017 News, Blog, Corporate News

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Tourism Month Blasts into Action in St. Kitts

BASSETERRE (2nd November, 2017): Motorcade, student fieldtrips, heritage walk, karoke and photo competitions; These are just some of the exciting activities of the 2017 Tourism Awareness Month, in November.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, Carlene Henry-Morton, launched the month of activities on Wednesday, and revealed the theme: “Enhancing Our Nation’s Prosperity by Nurturing Tourism Sustainability.”

“Throughout this month a variety of events and activities will highlight the fact that the tourism sector is vitally important to our country and that we all need to better understand, support, and protect tourism as one of the key drivers of our economy,” Morton said. “Indeed, it is important that we strive to protect all that is good about our island. That is why the team at the Ministry of Tourism and the St. Kitts Tourism Authority is committed in providing a consistently outstanding visitor experience through the sustainable development of our human, natural and cultural resources in order to maximize opportunity, prosperity and quality of life for present and future generations.”

Morton said her team has a pro-people approach to tourism sector development, which is intended to translate into youth inclusion and capacity building; entrepreneurship and employment. Therefore, citizens are empowered and equipped to deliver a quality, authentic and uniquely Kittitian experience, that will add value and differentiate us from other destinations.

Activities for tourism month include the following:

Friday 3rd November, 2017
Prize Giving for Winners of the CTO Youth Congress

Sunday 5th November, 2017
Church Service at the Zion Moravian Church (9:30am)

Tuesday 7th November, 2017
Caribbean Tourism Day Observance

Junior Minister of Tourism Radio Broadcast

Friday 10th November, 2017
Karaoke Competition
Port Zante Food Court 7pm

Saturday 11th November, 2017
Rails to Trails Project (6am)
Staff Appreciation Dinner

13th to 17th November, 2017
Talks In School Series

Saturday 18th November, 2017
Tourism/Carnival Island-Wide Motorcade

Sunday 19th November, 2017
Poinciana Theater Production
“When Men Talk About Sex”
ECCB 6pm

20th to 23rd November, 2017
Tourism Education Product Tour (Primary Schools)

Thursday 23rd November, 2017
Launch of Yachting Strategic Implementation Plan

Friday 24th November, 2017
Judging of the Best Destination Photo Contest

Saturday 25th November, 2017
Heritage Health & Fitness Walk
De Poincy Chateau

Wedneday 29th November, 2017
Prize Giving For Best Destination Photo Contest

 

Posted in: 2017 News, Blog, Destination News

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Caribbean Rum & Beer Festival Supports Region’s Tourism Recovery Efforts

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (31 October, 2017) – The 2017 Caribbean Rum & Beer Festival is throwing its support behind the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO)’s efforts to help Caribbean families and countries recover and rebuild after the monstrous hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated some member destinations.

The festival, an authentic Caribbean event, will be raising monies for the CTO Hurricane Relief Fund, which was activated through GoFundMe.

“We were horrified by the devastation inflicted on the region by the Category 5 hurricanes in September 2017 and, as an authentic Caribbean event, we felt obligated to assist those affected,” Cheryl Collymore, the festival director said.

“As the region’s tourism development agency, the CTO is a reputable organization with a history of coming to the support of Caribbean countries hit by natural disasters and we are happy to support its efforts.”

The festival will take place on 9 December, 2017 at the Rockley Golf & Country Club in Barbados, and by that time the initial attention on hurricane-hit territories will have started to dwindle, but the struggles suffering of those affected will not have ended.

To support the CTO Hurricane Relief Fund the 2017 Caribbean Rum & Beer Festival has committed to contributing five per cent of ticket and exhibitor space rental to the fund and to encourage regional producers who may not be attending the event to donate bottles of product to the festival to be sold, with 100 per cent of the sale monies going to the fund.

In addition, on-site activities at the festival venue will be organized to raise funds for the CTO Hurricane Relief Fund, while a page has been established on the festival’s website encouraging the population to donate.

“Hurricanes Irma and Maria have had a significant impact on families and countries in the affected countries and we welcome any contribution to the CTO Hurricane Fund,” the CTO’s secretary general Hugh Riley said.

“We are grateful to the organisers of the Caribbean Rum & Beer festival for their generous contribution.”

Those unable to attend the 2017 Caribbean Rum & Beer Festival can still donate to the CTO Hurricane Relief Fund thru their GoFundMe page.

Among activities at the 9 December event are a selection of rum and beer products to sample and purchase, intriguing master classes on a variety of rum and beer related subjects presented by industry experts, a highly competitive highly competitive ‘Rum Cocktail Wars’ bartender competition, creative culinary demonstrations of cooking with rum and beer and chocolate pairing with rum and beer.

The Caribbean Rum & Beer Festival, which has previously been hosted in Barbados, Grenada and St Maarten,  has been awarded a ‘Best Event’ accolade by RAD Season, an international adventure specialist travel company, and was rated as one of the Top 10 Best Drinking Festivals in the World.

Posted in: 2017 News, Blog, Caribbean Recovery

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BTB extends “A Dollar for the Caribbean Relief Fund” for another month

Belize City, Thursday Nov. 2nd, 2017:  The Dollar for the Caribbean Relief Fund campaign launched last month by the Belize Tourism Board, in collaboration with the tourism industry stakeholders, to assist victims of Hurricanes Irma and Maria has been extended for the entire month of November.  The funds will be collected from October 1- November 30st. Any donations post end date are still welcomed and will be disbursed accordingly.

Both Hurricanes severely devastated many of our Caribbean sister countries earlier in September.

The Belize Tourism Board will donate a $1 for every tourist arrival for the months of October and November and the initiative is that each stakeholder donates a $1 for every guest; therefore, creating a multiplier effect. The BTB initiative is being supported by participating agencies and tourism stakeholders such as the Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA), the Belize Hotel Association (BHA), Tour Operators, water taxis, hoteliers and local airlines amongst many others.

During the first week of September, category 5 Hurricane Irma pummeled a number of Caribbean countries in the northern Leeward Islands and the northern Caribbean leaving a long trail of devastation. Many residents of these countries were left homeless, without food, power, water and basic essentials.  Two weeks later, Hurricane Maria followed the same path further exacerbating the level of destruction throwing many of these countries in a severe state of desperation and despair. Many of these countries depend on tourism as their chief means of survival and the devastation by both hurricanes has stalled their economies, which may take several months or perhaps years to recover.

The BTB, therefore, hereby appeals to all stakeholders to donate $1 for every passenger/ guest engaged for the month of October towards the Caribbean Relief Fund in order to ease the road to recovery for our Caribbean sister countries.

The funds will be donated to the Caribbean Tourism Organization, in addition to their existing Go fund me Hurricane Relief fund for the Caribbean. Hugh Riley, Secretary General & CEO of CTO, stated “It’s through this Fund that the CTO channels monetary assistance to our impacted member states. Assessments are being conducted of needs through the Ministries of Tourism and the monies collected will be disbursed directly to the people in need in form of food, medication, water, or material for rebuilding. The CTO appreciates all donations to assist in the recovery efforts of these countries.” 

Further information on the A Dollar for the Caribbean Relief Fund campaign and transparency for disbursements of funds can be found http://belizetourismboard.org/caribbean-hurricane-relief/

To confirm your participation please email us at [email protected]

 

Posted in: 2017 News, Blog, Caribbean Recovery, Destination News

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