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Barbados ranks third in 2015 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice awards for Islands

BRIDGETOWN, BARBADOS. June 17, 2015 – – Barbados has been recognized as a winner in the 2015 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice™ awards for Islands, ranking third in the top 10 of all competing island destinations.

For the third straight year TripAdvisor has highlighted the world’s top islands based on the millions of reviews and opinions collected in a single year from travelers around the globe.

William Griffith, CEO of the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (BTMI) acknowledged the award stating, “Barbados’ steady climb in popularity from eighth position two years ago is a clear indication of the level of engagement of all of the island’s tourism accommodations, restaurants, tour operators and ancillary services. They are the ones that must be congratulated for the superior service being exhibited in all establishments”.

He added that his team has been working hard to broaden the image of the island across the globe so that the island is renowned as much for its culture, events and culinary offerings as it is for its beaches, landscape and weather.”

TripAdvisor’s chief marketing officer, Barbara Messing, congratulated Barbados stating that the results reflected independent views of over 340 million unique monthly visitors.

“Our well-traveled community has uncovered the best islands around the world for that perfect island escape whether you want to lie on the beach or seek adventure,” said Messing. “To help travelers book their trips to these remarkable destinations, TripAdvisor has surfaced amazing island hotels to accommodate a range of travel budgets.”

To see TripAdvisor traveler reviews and opinions of Barbados go to http://www.tripadvisor.com/Tourism-g147262-Barbados-Vacations.html.  For all of the 2015 Travelers’ Choice award-winning islands, go to www.tripadvisor.com/TravelersChoice-Islands.  Travelers can also follow the conversation on Twitter at #travelerschoice.

Posted in: 2015 News, Blog, Destination News

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Saint Lucia records over 6% growth for the first 5 months

SAINT LUCIA (June 22, 2015) – Saint Lucia joins the rest of the Caribbean in celebrating phenomenal increases in visitor arrivals in 2015.  The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) announced that visitor arrivals to the region was up 6% at the end of the first quarter, whilst Saint Lucia alone, recorded a 6.4% growth over the same period last year.

This growth has continued past the first quarter for Saint Lucia however, with a 1.4% and 7.2% increase recorded in April and May respectively.  At the end of the first five months of the year, total stay-over arrivals to the island was 159,077; up 5.5% from the same period in 2014.

Furthermore, the figures recorded in the first four consecutive months, were the highest figures for these months ever recorded in the island’s history.  The 29,658 arrivals recorded in May this year, was however the highest figure for that month in the last five years.

The North American Market has been extremely buoyant this year, with Canada recording a 10% increase in arrivals year-to-date (YTD) and the US 9%, stemming largely from the increase in airlift and strategic marketing approach within the respective markets.  The greatest percentage increase however, was noted from the Caribbean, which stood at 22,142 arrivals at the end of May – a 21% increase from the same period last year.  Improvement in the data collection method, particularly in capturing arrivals from Martinique by boat, has been attributed to this increase.

Tourism Minister Lorne Theophilus told a news conference on Tuesday, June 16, 2015, “that as impressive as the growth performance figures were, there will be no letup in Saint Lucia’s push toward reenergizing and invigorating the international marketplace via well-orchestrated strategies in key source markets.”

Europe however, has not fared as well as other source markets, with marked declines in arrivals from the UK and Germany along with other European countries, being recorded several months this year.

Targeted promotions and marketing campaigns planned for later this year, should result in increased arrivals from these markets before the year of 2015.

In other performance areas, cruise tourism is also on the rise, with a 9% increase in arrivals being recorded between January and April, following a 4% increase in cruise calls.  In yachting, a 1.5% decrease in arrivals was noted, despite there being a 14% decrease in calls.

Posted in: 2015 News, Blog, Destination News

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Nevis wins media award in New York

New York, NY (June 11, 2015) – There was the slight aroma of ‘Killer Bee’ in the air at the annual Caribbean Week in New York City, NY this past week (June 1st-5th), as Greg Phillip, Chief Executive Officer of the Nevis Tourism Association (NTA) and Yvette Jackman, NTA North America Manager joined Caribbean ministers of tourism and officials representing island nations while walking away with the media award for Nevisian Fare.

The activity packed week started with a Trade Show and Educational Seminar for Travel Agents that was both enlightening and productive for Nevis who used this as an opportunity to educate agents further on the product.  Additionally, before arriving in New York, Phillip and Jackman carried out a series of travel agent seminars in the US, culminating in New York City. The tour was so successful that it resulted in a number of carriage trade agents coming to Nevis on familiarization trips in the near future. “We were happily surprised by the keen interest in Nevis particularly from the state of Connecticut”, Phillip said. “This sales blitz gave us the opportunity to share the story of Nevis with a select group of agents and as a consequence they have agreed to visit Nevis in the summer months in order to experience the tourism product first hand and ultimately sell it to their clients with confidence”.

Phillip and Jackman, joined by Nevis Tourism Sales Representative Andrew Rowe, used Caribbean Week as a perfect chance to share information on Nevis’ special events for 2015 including the Mango Festival, Culturama, The Annual Nevis Marathon and Running Festival and the Nevis Triathlon.

The culmination of Nevis’ participation came at the annual Caribbean Media Awards Luncheon at the Wyndham New Yorker Hotel when Nevis took center stage after the Master of Ceremonies announced that the Best Feature by a Caribbean Journalist was Peter Swain’s article on Nevisian cuisine, entitled Nevisian Fare for MACO CARIBBEAN LIVING Magazine. The judges commented that Mr. Swain gave an accurate depiction and a beautifully executed painting with words, summarizing a typical stay on the secluded island paradise.

At the Caribbean Media Marketplace later that day, NTA CEO, Greg Phillip, met with many influential journalists from varying publications including writers and Editor-in-Chief’s from tourismexecutives.com, Travel + Leisure, LuxuryWeb Magazine, travelsquire.com, Urban Broadcasting Company, and ohthepeopleyoumeet.com.

The NTA also attended the ‘The Caribbean Romance Pavilion’, which provided them the opportunity to promote the destination to over 500 couples that are in the throes of planning their weddings and honeymoons.  The aspiring newlyweds to be, were able to interact directly with the NTA representatives and learn about the options available for saying their vows on Nevis. Many couples expressed strong interest in Nevis as its secluded and untouched beauty made it even more desirable for those seeking a more intimate and romantic location. This message was further reinforced by the fact that Nevis has been ranked “The Most Romantic Caribbean Island” by Caribbean Journal and “The Best Romantic Island” by USA Today.

Amidst the busy schedule and events taking place at Caribbean Week, Phillip scheduled a meeting with directors at Playbill Magazine to seek ways of partnering with them to promote Nevis and associate the island with the hit play Hamilton that opens on Broadway in September.

Posted in: 2015 News, Blog, Caribbean Week

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Martinique hosts FCCA delegation in push to continue strong cruise sector growth

NEW YORK, NY– June 15, 2015 – The Martinique Tourism Authority hosted a delegation of Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) officials May 28–29, 2015 as part of its continuing efforts to bolster the cruise sector on the island. The visit comes as Martinique enjoys its strongest cruise results in years, posting a 631-percent increase in cruise passenger arrivals since 2010.

“Cruising has certainly been on the rise in Martinique in recent years, but we’re not resting on our laurels,” said Muriel Wiltord, Director Americas for the Martinique Promotion Bureau. “This FCCA visit continues our commitment to work closely with our cruise industry partners to always find new ways to improve our cruise travel product and better meet the needs of today’s savvy traveler.”

Leon Sutcliff, Commercial Director and Head of the Stopovers Program for Carnival Cruises commented:

“For the past few years, Martinique has improved its relationship with the cruise industry, by opening up communication, and being receptive to input from the FCCA (Florida Caribbean Cruise Association) and the individual cruise lines including Carnival Cruise Line.  Martinique is making strides to improve the guest experience by listening and acting on advice from the industry. Everyone in Martinique has worked hard, and if they continue with this effort, I am sure that our guests and those that are connected with this segment of tourism will be pleased with future results. But it’s important that everyone remains focused on the work ahead.”

The FCCA is compiling research toward producing a new study on cruise passenger behavior and spending in Martinique. FCCA President Michele Paige provided a preview of the findings thus far, noting that average per-person spending amounted to US$70 (approximately 65€) per port call, a considerable figure considering ships arrive in Martinique with up to 4,000 passengers.

“While the cruising industry in the Caribbean is facing increasing competition, Martinique is registering the fastest and most important increase in the world as a cruise destination,” said Paige.

Prospects for sustaining the impressive recent growth in the Martinique cruise sector are very encouraging for 2015-2016 as well. Already the Martinique Tourism Authority is projecting 326,388 cruise passenger arrivals, an increase of 31-percent over the 2014-2015 cruise season.

“The December 2015 completion of the Pointe Simon cruise terminal and other capital improvements designed to further beautify the downtown Fort-de-France area and ease congestion along the waterfront will raise the bar on our cruise travel product even more,” Wiltord continued. “A new 94-room hotel and new retail shops are also planned for the Pointe Simon port area, enhancing the visitor experience for those staying in port just a few hours, as well as those taking advantage of pre- and post-cruise extended stay options created by expanded homeporting options in Fort-de-France.”

Posted in: 2015 News, Blog, Destination News

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Skift Interview with Hugh Riley on the Marketing the Region as One Destination

When thinking about the Caribbean it’s often the larger islands of the Barbados, Jamaica and Puerto Rico that come to mind. This is one of the challenges of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) where the mission is to market the region as one destination and make sure the household name destinations don’t claim the largest slices of its marketing budget. While it’s not clear to what extent this happens the region as a whole had a record year for tourist arrivals in 2014 and so far this year has seen more records.

The Caribbean welcomed 26.3 million visitors in 2014 which was a 5.6% increase over the previous year. For the first quarter of 2015, the CTO announced it’s seeing a 6% increase over the first quarter of 2014.

Skift recently sat down with Hugh Riley, the CEO of the Caribbean Tourism Organization, to talk about visitor arrivals, air capacity growth to the region and the impact of Cuba thawing relations with the U.S.

An edited version of the interview follows:

Skift: What’s the status with the “One Caribbean” messaging that your organization employs when marketing the Caribbean? Are you seeing success from that rather than calling out individual islands? Also, how do you ensure islands like Jamaica, Barbados, and the Bahamas don’t hog all of the marketing budget and that money trickles down to smaller islands?

Hugh Riley: I think this is an important goal and in pretty much every ad opportunity we have we talk about “one sea, one voice, one Caribbean.” The real meaning of this very important tenant is that the Caribbean brand is stronger than any individual country brand in the region. To the extent that people first wrap their minds around a vacation in “the Caribbean,” we believe this is the starting point.

We would much rather have them decide on the Caribbean this year than on some other region of the world. We think that once we can attract people’s attention and lure them into our region of course the next decision is what destination within the Caribbean and what hotel, what activity and so on.

What this does not do is to remove the necessity for individual countries of the Caribbean to promote themselves. The fact is that each destination within the Caribbean has its own uniqueness and culture, color and history. We represent French, Spanish, Dutch, and English countries in the Caribbean. Big islands and small islands and some countries that aren’t islands at all so there is that diversity of which we are very proud.

Naturally there will always be more people going to the Bahamas than some of the smaller islands, that’s just the natural order of things, but I think it’s the diversity that really helps the small islands and the big islands. That people know they can have a different kind of experience depending on what size island and type of destination they’re looking for within a very small distance.

Skift: What are some challenges moving forward with that?

Riley: We’re getting closer all the time and I believe the goal will never be truly realized until we see every member of the CTO be in a position where they can functionally and effectively contribute to a budget that is large enough and sustainable enough to constantly promote the Caribbean as the destination of choice in the world. We know that this has to happen if we are to see our full potential.

We know that our individual member countries within CTO simply do not have the resources to make that kind of impact so if as a region we were spending $100 million unfortunately each of us is spending 2 or 4 or $6 million but not getting the real value, the real clout of a $100 million destination or a $100 million advertiser.

Pooling our resources is really the only effective answer to getting the resources we need for the region and for the destinations. What I have to constantly remind people of is that this does not retract from the uniqueness of the individual countries and we have to remind people, particularly those who don’t know the Caribbean well, is that if you’ve seen one island, you’ve seen one island. That’s all you’ve seen because we are so different.

Skift: Air passenger arrivals to the Caribbean are typically worth more and spend more than their cruise counterparts. Cruise passengers sometimes don’t spend anything beyond the port or nothing when they’re off the ship. What’s your view on this and how are you working to make sure everyone spends more in the destinations?

Riley: Each type of passenger has its own value and there’s no question about that. Statistically a stay-over visitor naturally spends a great deal more than a cruise passenger and in some destinations it is ten times as much. That does not mean a stay-over visitor is ten times more valuable because there are other criteria to define value. Let’s accept that cruising is incredibly important to the vacation experience and that cruising is here to stay.

Let’s also accept that because of cruising millions of people see the Caribbean who would not normally do so. Thirdly, there are people who have seen the Caribbean on a cruise ship and come back as a stay-over visitor and I imagine the reverse would also happen. But I suspect the first one happens more as a way for people to sample the Caribbean and then they can make decisions like whether they’re going to be cruise passengers forever or whether they’ll be stay-over visitors at one or two countries the most or whether they want to combine both cruising and flying, both desirable experiences. The Caribbean is still the number one choice for cruise passengers and we still have the biggest segment of cruise passengers on the planet.

Skift: During the past five years which has changed more: your relationship with cruise lines or airlines?

Riley: Well it’s not a contest of course but I think those relationships are continuing pretty much neck and neck. Both cruises and airlines have places on the board of directors of the CTO and cruise lines sit next to airlines who sit next to hotels at business meetings for the board of directors and executive committee. In my opinion it’s hard to say which of those sectors has moved ahead of the others in terms of innovation because I think all of them have made great tech innovations that are keeping Caribbean tourism vibrant.

Skift: During the past year there’s been some air capacity growth to the Caribbean such as Southwest and JetBlue’s new routes to and from the U.S. Which islands would you like to see further expansion of seat capacity to?

Riley: We’d like to see an expansion of capacity to the Caribbean as a whole. Our individual member countries use whatever means they feel are necessarily based on their national objectives. There are some countries for which the U.S. is the number one source of tourism arrivals so they’ll certainly spend more time talking to U.S. carriers and there are also some countries for which Europe is their bread basket.

Many of our member countries are now looking more at non-traditional markets, so airlift out of South America is a big focus now and so on. But our role as a catalyst is if our member countries say “we would like you do some research on some non-traditional market and let’s see what the air seat capacity would be like, and there are two or three of us who would like to work together and share a 737,” we are the catalyst for making those kinds of things happen. But these countries make their own national policies.

Skift: North American arrivals were slow in 2013 but rebounded last year. But what about visitor growth to Caribbean from the BRIC countries?

Riley: The Americas, specifically the United States, and Canada have been increasing but the U.S. is still the number one source of visitors to the Caribbean. Looking at Brazil, Russia, India, and China there has been some difference from our member countries in terms of where they want to put the emphasis there. Some of our countries have set up consular services in China and Russia and have been very successful with attracting more tourists from those countries

Brazil is a major source market for the Caribbean and share’s a lot of familial and historical connections. And Brazil is contra-seasonal, meaning when it’s cold there it’s usually warm in the U.S. so Brazil helps balance out our visitor arrivals year-round. And with India the region shares many obvious similarities such as cricket. At least half of our member countries love cricket and Indians are extremely passionate about cricket and it’s not a big secret that tourism follows passion or passion follows tourism.

Skift: Let’s talk about the elephant in the room: Cuba. Tourism to that country definitely isn’t new but is it ready to handle the inevitable influx of American tourists? What’s been the conversation in the Caribbean about Cuba?

Riley: It’s extremely exciting to think that on the horizon that there is an opportunity to attract new visitors into the Caribbean. As you said Cuba is not new to the tourism business and in fact receives the second largest number of visitors (more than 3 million a year) only behind the Dominican Republic.

Cuba is well established in the tourism business and it has the goods to be powerful, effective and attractive magnet for tourism. The fact that all of those assets can be used at some point in the near and not so distant future to attract more Americans into the Caribbean is an exciting prospect for Cuba and the region. Cuba is a member of the CTO so it’s just as important for us to understand what Cuba’s objectives are than what other members’ objectives are.

Skift: What are people getting wrong about Cuba and what is it like working with them as the CTO and a non-American actor?

Riley: We’ve grown up going to school in Cuba, training there and getting degrees there. As a non-American actor doing business with Cuba it really isn’t that different than doing business with anyone else. I think the question might get a different answer if it were addressed to an American citizen who has never been to Cuba. But I wish I had some complex, intriguing answer for you but it’s really no different for us as Caribbean citizens.

Skift: And you definitely have a lot more to focus on besides Cuba outside the region. How are you tackling rising beach destination competition from places like Abu Dhabi and Dubai? Do you see them as competition and who do you think will retain the most market share in the long-run?

Riley: We expect more countries to get into the tourism business and some countries are relatively new to the business. But we have been in it for a long time and we have to keep on by freshening our product and listening to the responses of our customers. We have to make sure that we’re not just satisfying but exceeding their expectations and we want to make sure that they not only come back but that they also recommend the Caribbean to others.

We are constantly aware of what the competition is doing but building a man-made beach somewhere and sticking up plastic palms really doesn’t compare to the authenticity of the Caribbean. Somebody’s always going to have a bigger Olympic size pool or a taller waterfall and we expect that. But no one should have a more special experience than they would get in the Caribbean because we are the most tourism dependent region in the world.

Skift: Lastly, conventions growth in the region seems to be positive and islands like Puerto Rico have done a particularly good job at branding themselves as a meetings and conventions hub during the past year. What role has your organization played in this?

Riley: What we call the “MICE” market [meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions] is of interest to a number of our member countries. Puerto Rico is doing extremely well with larger conventions in terms of Caribbean standards and Trinidad and Tobago have also had some success. The question is whether it’s a big meeting or a small meeting as a big meeting in some of our countries means a 1,000 people and for others “big” means 250 people. The Caribbean is seen as a reward and as a winner and it’s still an exciting feather in people’s caps to say they’re going to the Caribbean.

One thing the Caribbean does a very good job of is creativity. Even if your prospects in meetings and incentives have been to the Caribbean before, the idea behind the incentive trip is to make it different than what the individual himself could ever achieve and we love that kind of challenge.
Original interview: http://skift.com/2015/06/10/interview-ceo-of-caribbean-tourism-organization-on-marketing-the-region-as-one-destination/

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Dominica….home of the Nature Island Food and Drink Festival

Roseau, Dominica – (June 3rd, 2015) Dominica presents the Nature Island Food and Drink Festival, 4 days of culinary excellence and passion.  Organized by Vetivert Inc., the festival to be held from July 1st – 4th 2015 incorporates Island Chef Cook-Off Competitions, Mixologist Competitions, Culinary Arts and Ital Food Symposiums and expos and a Farm to Table experience for kids.

The festival which has been in operation since 2012 is ideally placed within the summer months taking advantage of the summer tourism rush and prefacing other local festivals such as Dive Fest, held in July.  In 2015, the festival will see the introduction of experiences for children, incorporation of health conscious foods, utilizing trends towards whole and raw foods, and fusion cuisine.

Producer of the Festival, Carla Armour, explains that, “The festival seeks to excite persons about using local produce in new and interesting ways in fusion with international concepts and products, to raise the standard of food and drink offerings”.  In doing so she explained that the culinary arts will be recognized as an internationally marketable heritage and tourism niche.

This year, the Nature Island Food and Drink Festival features Toronto based Chef Carlos Laville and New York based Chef Stefan Shillingford. Health and wellness activities will also form part of the Festival, which culminates on Saturday July 4th, with the Island Chef finals and cook-off competition and Mixologist face-off finals.

For more information on the Nature Island Food and Drink Festival visit the facebook page – Nature Island Food and Drink Festival.

For more information on Dominica, contact Discover Dominica Authority at 767 448 2045. Or, visit Dominica’s official website: www.DiscoverDominica.com, follow Dominica on Twitter and Facebook and take a look at our videos on YouTube.

Posted in: 2015 News, Blog, Destination News

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First Seatrade Caribbean Cruise Forum a resounding success

London (21 May 2015) The first Seatrade Caribbean Cruise Forum came to a close last week at the Magdalena Grand Beach & Golf Resort, Tobago, with almost 150 delegates from all around the Caribbean attending the conference, for a series of high-level discussions and debates.

Led by senior cruise line executives and key industry figures, the Forum focused on cruise tourism opportunities for the region, port infrastructure, potential for new itineraries and Shorex development. The discussions addressed the importance of sustainability and eco-tourism, which provided an excellent opportunity for audience participation. One to one meetings were also on the agenda, as seven regional destinations were given the unique opportunity of exclusive meetings with leading European cruise lines.

Cruise line executives attending were provided with a tour of the host venue Tobago, gaining a deeper, more intimate knowledge of the region. For many of the executives, this provided a first-time look at the island. Michael Pawlus, director of strategic itinerary planning, Silversea, was impressed with the friendliness and diversity of the island.

Assemblyman Tracy Davidson-Celestine, deputy chief secretary Tobago House of Assembly and secretary Division of Tourism and Transportation is taking a lead role regionally in securing unity, cooperation, and collaboration to promote the benefits of Southern Caribbean cruising together with the Minister of Tourism of Barbados and other key regional leaders. ‘Tobago supports the development of the Sugar Point port project in Barbados as a means to create a strong southern Caribbean homeport that would benefit cruise destination Tobago and other Southern Caribbean destinations. Our team is working diligently to make Tobago a better cruise destination able to accommodate bigger ships with more cruise guests.’

Henry Yaniz, ceo of Newport Maritime was delighted with the success of the event which emulates Tobago’s success in the cruise industry – ‘Last season saw Tobago welcome more than 65,000 cruise passengers, with an 30% increase expected for the 2015/2016 season to nearly 100,000 cruise guests. As preparations are being made to welcome more cruise ships, including the larger ships, enhancements are being made at Scarborough’s 312mtr long pier to accommodate the increased numbers and 50 new tour buses will arrive in time for the next season, along with a proposed extension of the quayside, to provide a covered area for passengers going and returning on tours. The Tobago Division of Tourism & Transportation, together with the key stakeholders, is also launching a progressive training programme for tour guides.’

Despite competition from regions such as China, there was a distinct optimism throughout the entire Forum for the future development of cruising in the southern Caribbean; traditionally a region in the shadow of the more popular northern and western ports. Hugh Riley, secretary general of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, spoke of a time of challenge and opportunity for the Caribbean. Calling for better co-operation between the islands, Riley added that each must ensure their uniqueness is highlighted, stressing that ‘when you see one island, you only see one island and not the Caribbean as a whole’.

Vanessa Stephens, Global Events Director for Seatrade commented ‘We are delighted with the response to the first Seatrade Caribbean Cruise Forum held on the beautiful island of Tobago. Almost 150 delegates attended to listen to cruise line executives and industry experts discussing the opportunities for the development of cruise tourism in the region.  We are grateful to the Tobago House of Assembly, Division of Tourism and Transportation for its excellent support and generous hospitality over the two days of the event and for the opportunity it afforded the cruise lines to familiarise themselves with the destination.’

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