Archive for September, 2019

CTO Tourism Sector Outlook Forum Preview: How JetBlue Works with Caribbean Destinations

“Your destination must be not only present but ‘come alive’ in mobile placements across the web, with links to simple and fast booking options once a customer shows interest.” – Mike Pezzicola, JetBlue.


BRIDGETOWN, Barbados – (28 Sept. 2019) – Member governments of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and leaders from entities that generate business to the region meet in Antigua and Barbuda on Friday 4 October for the first CTO Caribbean Tourism Sector Outlook Forum.

Among the senior executives who will speak about their plans, programmes and activities is Mike Pezzicola, the head of commercial for JetBlue Travel, who went to JetBlue from Google where he spent the previous five years building out the Google shopping product.

Ahead of the forum, we quizzed him on a number of issues, including the Caribbean tourism product and how the region’s tourism sector should make better use of technology.

CTO: What makes JetBlue the number one carrier to the Caribbean?

MP: For our entire 19-year history, the Caribbean has always been a major focus of JetBlue. JetBlue operates over 1000 flights daily with a third of its route network in the Caribbean. Also, we are proud to have one of our focus cities located in the region at San Juan. We have continually grown our destinations and flights in the Caribbean over time as well as enhanced our service offerings with the addition and expansion of Mint service.

CTO: When you work with member countries to introduce service, what are some of the things you look for?

MP: Our customers are always our first focus. How can we expand our service in a way that excites our existing customers and introduces JetBlue to customers in new markets? Along with our customers, we are of course always looking to form strong partnerships with member countries to determine how we can introduce service in a way that is sustainable and poised for growth for both JetBlue and the member country.

CTO: Do you collaborate with the destinations on marketing? If so, how?

MP: Marketing our awesome destinations is a favourite part of my job. If you explore the JetBlue and JetBlue Vacations websites, you’ll notice how we strive to emphasise not only key attractions but also the unique aspects and culture of Caribbean destinations. We partner with destinations on cooperative marketing efforts for both large campaigns (month long out of home marketing efforts) and even smaller events (such as highlighting local regional sporting or cultural events).

CTO: Based on your experience at Google building out the Google sopping product, and combining Google’s search experience with seamless e-commerce shopping, how must the Caribbean use technology to facilitate travel?

MP: Most customers at the very least begin their inspiration and education for travel using their thumb (searching, scrolling, and exploring on their phone). Your destination must be not only present but ‘come alive’ in mobile placements across the web, with links to simple and fast booking options once a customer shows interest. How can you get customers not only to explore and learn on their phone, but then quickly BOOK as well?

CTO: What are your thoughts on the Caribbean tourism product as it currently stands?

MP: The Caribbean market provides such a wide variety of unique options for customers – which is both an opportunity and a challenge. We together must ensure customers consider the Caribbean as they begin planning their travel but at the same time ensure we leverage your variety of offerings.

CTO: Without going into too many details, please summarise what you intend to share with our member governments at the CTO’s outlook forum?

MP: I look forward to providing some details about the growth of JetBlue Travel over the next few years.


Please note the CTO Caribbean Tourism Sector Outlook Forum is for government members only, including, but not limited to, ministers and commissioners of tourism, directors of tourism, chief executives of destination management organisations, permanent secretaries, advisors and specialists and technical officers.

For further details on the tourism outlook forum, including how to register, please visit

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World Tourism Day 2019 Message by Neil Walters Acting Secretary General CTO

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados – 27 September 2019 – The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) joins the global community today in celebrating World Tourism Day 2019 under the theme, “Tourism and Jobs: A better Future for All”.

Tourism is the region’s primary money earner, with the Caribbean welcoming an estimated 30.2 million international tourists and 29.3 million cruise visits in 2018, generating approximately US$39.3 billion in revenue for regional economies.

The sector provides a myriad of opportunities to enrich the lives of residents. It drives meaningful employment, investment and entrepreneurial initiatives, contributes to sustainable alternative livelihoods and supports community development, which has importantly begun to include development in rural and traditionally marginalised communities.

At our recently held Caribbean Conference on Sustainable Tourism Development (STC) in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, we heard from various indigenous and other community presenters how sustainable tourism enterprises continue to act as conduits for social transformation by providing a means for women’s empowerment, youth engagement in meaningful work and contributing to poverty alleviation in communities such as the Charles Town maroon community in Jamaica, Rewa village in Guyana, and Hopkins Village in Belize. We also heard from The Bahamas how its People to People programme makes such a difference to the lives of Bahamians who host and connect with visitors.

Less than one week after STC, we received a stark reminder of the severe threats to the brighter future which tourism promises when Hurricane Dorian devastated Abaco and Grand Bahama in northwestern Bahamas where it lingered for two days. With sustained winds of 185 mph and higher gusts, Dorian was one more example of the increasing intensity of hurricanes, something that we fear is becoming all too common for the region.

The Dorian experience, along with Matthew in 2016 and Irma and Maria in 2017, emphasizes the urgent need for adaptation to the impacts of natural disasters propelled by climate variability and climate change (CVC). It should also highlight the support needed by the tourism sector, and most particularly national governments, to enhance climate resilience. Scientists have predicted among other CVC impacts, an increase in the frequency and severity of natural disasters.

These powerful climatic events in the last four years make it clear that the time to act is now. It is important to ensure climate adaptation and resilience of the sector, for the Caribbean to secure and maintain tourism’s role and capability as an engine for social and economic growth, the generator of jobs and the foundation of a future for all.

We have to do our own critical analysis, and in some cases, rebuild this important industry by ensuring the optimal use of social, natural, cultural and financial resources on an equitable and self-sustaining basis. The setbacks caused by these natural disasters present a very powerful opportunity for us to ‘build back better’, to borrow the slogan made popular by one of our members after the hurricanes in 2017.

Let us begin a journey of turning our threats into opportunities, that along with the existing strength of the Caribbean brand, can help us to move tourism to become an even more robust industry; one with an enhanced tourism product, generating new jobs and possibilities for our people and creating a better future for all.

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Caribbean Youth to Tackle Issues of Smart Travel at CTO Youth Congress

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (20 Sept. 2019) – Students from 14 Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) member countries will tackle some of the most pertinent issues facing the regional tourism industry at the CTO-organised Caribbean Tourism Youth Congress in Antigua & Barbuda next month.

The ‘Junior Ministers of Tourism’ will present proposals on three topics – Towards Smart Travel Experiences Within The Caribbean Region; Equipping Our Youth To Thrive In A Changing Tourism Environment; and Making Excellence A Habit In Caribbean Tourism.

The students, aged 14 to 17, will do so in the presence of the key decision-makers from CTO-member governments, among other tourism leaders, at the event to be held at the Royalton Antigua Resort & Spa on Friday 4 October.

On the issue of smart travel experiences, students will propose policies or actions which can be implemented by governments to facilitate smart travel experiences at ports of entry. They will also address the quest for habitual service excellence in the tourism industry in order to meet growing expectations on businesses and keep the industry competitive and growing.

In addition, the students will also look at government strategies which can help prepare young people for the changing nature of work brought about by technology.

An Overseas Development Institute 2015 report on ‘Jobs for the Future’ predicts that such jobs “will look dramatically different” from what we are used to. “Fundamental changes in Technology – the ‘digital revolution’ – are breaking down barriers and building new bridges with unprecedented speed. Together with the retirement of the baby boomer generation and rise of the millennials generation [and Generation Z], we see a workforce with new characteristics. Interconnectivity and globalisation are weaving a new economy that connects the world at great speed, creating new powerhouses and threatening traditional models,” the report states.

The gathering, typically a thought-provoking and spirited exchange of views from the youth leaders, will be chaired by last year’s winner, Bryanna Hylton of Jamaica.

The Caribbean Tourism Youth Congress is the final event of a three-day programme of activities organised by the CTO in Antigua and Barbuda. It will follow the members-only Caribbean Tourism Sector Outlook Forum on the morning of Friday 4 October, at which Caribbean tourism policymakers, marketers and other senior officers will engage leaders from the tourism industry that generate business to the region. Both these events will be preceded by the CTO business meetings on 2 and 3 October.

For details on the programme of activities, including how to register for the forum and the youth congress, please visit

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CTO Makes Initial Monetary Contribution to the Bahamas Recovery Effort

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (19 Sept. 2019) – The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) has made an initial monetary contribution to The Bahamas to assist with its recovery efforts in Abaco and Grand Bahama following the devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian earlier this month.

The sum of US$20,000 – monies raised through the CTO Relief Fund ( – has been transferred to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) of The Bahamas as part of the CTO’s on-going support of the long-term recovery of the affected islands.

The CTO activated its hurricane relief fund immediately after Hurricane Dorian battered the northwestern Bahamian islands of Abacos and Grand Bahama, leaving behind a trail of destruction, over 50 confirmed deaths and many more missing.

“The CTO sincerely thanks those of you who are helping The Bahamas by contributing to the hurricane relief fund. Your assistance goes a long way towards bringing relief to the people of the Abacos and Grand Bahama who suffered gravely from Hurricane Dorian,” said Neil Walters, the CTO’s acting secretary general. “We encourage everyone to continue to contribute to the fund so we can keep assisting those affected. However, it’s important to note that 14 tourist destinations in The Bahamas were unaffected by the storm and we encourage persons planning vacations at this time to show their ultimate support to The Bahamas by visiting at least one of these destinations.”

In addition to the relief fund, the CTO is engaged in other activities to assist The Bahamas as follows:

  • Collaborating with Friends of Culture, a 501C3 organisation in New Orleans, Louisiana, to raise funds at its annual Bayou Bacchanal (Caribbean Carnival), which will be held 2 November in New Orleans
  • Worked with Julie Guaglardi of Zelman Style Interiors to highlight the Bahamas at a fashion show in Times Square, New York during New York Fashion Week, reaching an audience of 100,000

To contribute to the CTO Hurricane Relief Fund please visit

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CTO Statement on the Passage of Hurricane Dorian

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, 3 Sept. 2019- The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) expresses our deepest regret and sadness over the loss of life and damage done to the Abacos and Grand Bahama Island by dangerous category 5 hurricane Dorian.

In the wake of this monstrous storm, we have witnessed the pain of those who lost loved ones, the agony of so many who lost their homes and all their belongings, and the angst of an entire Caribbean concerned for the welfare of the people of these islands.

However, as has been demonstrated so many times in the past, we have weathered many storms, we are a resilient people who refuse to surrender even in the most difficult of times, and we are confident that the people of the Abaco Islands and Grand Bahama, with the full support of the Islands of the Bahamas and the Caribbean tourism family, will navigate the road to recovery together and emerge stronger.

With the Bahamas being an archipelago with more than 700 islands and cays spread over 100,000 square miles, the greatest impact of Hurricane Dorian is being felt in the northernmost islands of the Abacos and Grand Bahama, while most of the nation has been mostly unaffected.

The CTO offers our full support to the Bahamas. We have activated our Hurricane Relief Fund which has been established to help our people and countries rebuild after disasters. Please visit to donate to the fund. We appreciate your contribution and encourage you to be generous.

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