Archive for 2019

CTO Mourns Passing of Flora Gilford, Former President of CTO Northern California Chapter

NEW YORK, NY (17 Oct., 2019) – The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) is grieving the loss of a longtime friend of the Caribbean, Flora Gilford, who passed away on 9 Oct., 2019 in Michigan at the age of 97. Gilford was a travel agent who served as president of the CTO Northern California Chapter between the late 1980s to mid-1990s. Visitation will be held on 21 Oct. from 7 – 8 p.m. at the Gorsline Runciman Funeral Home in Lansing, Michigan.

“Flora Gilford was well loved by her peers; she wholeheartedly loved the Caribbean and was always willing to volunteer when we needed a helping hand,” said Sylma Brown, director of CTO-USA, Inc. “She treated the CTO staff members and young sales representatives for CTO member countries as her children, always looking out for their well-being in a motherly way. To this day, my own children, nieces and nephews that knew her while they were growing up refer to her as ‘Grandma Flora’ because that is what she told them to call her,” Brown added.

Gilford was instrumental in the execution of the Caribbean Sales seminars, held annually in CTO member countries, which provided travel agent members of the CTO Chapters across the U.S. and Canada with the opportunity to participate in exclusive training and in-country workshops. She always attended the Caribbean Tourism Conferences (CTC) and consistently volunteered to assist CTO with managing the travel agents who attended the conferences.

Gilford also spearheaded fundraising efforts for the Audrey Palmer Hawks Memorial Scholarship Fund, a pre-cursor to the current CTO Scholarship Foundation.

“Flora was a loving, compassionate and wonderful woman who will be missed by many who loved her,” said Brown.

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Statement by CTO Chairman, Dominic Fedee, on Organization Restructuring

Over the past two decades, there has been much discussion surrounding the promotion and development of tourism in the Caribbean, the world’s most tourism dependent region. While there have been many visions, plans, papers written and philosophies espoused, there has been widespread acceptance that much improvement  is needed to elevate tourism development in the region.

Some of the most discussed aspirations range from marketing the Caribbean as a single brand, more in-depth research, and a greater uniformed approach to policy formulation and product development.

The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) therefore recognizes that it plays a most essential role in the changes required to achieve the long held view to enhance tourism’s role as a tool for sustainable development among member states. Consequently, we are of the firm view that in order to play a stronger role in the new era of tourism development, we have to reinvent  and reposition the organization as a pillar upon which tourism advancement can rest.

To better streamline our operations and finances, we are announcing the following:

  1. Closure of our New York office by December 31, 2019
  2. Closure of our United Kingdom office by January 31, 2020
  3. A comprehensive audit of the Barbados office

This restructuring exercise is expected to significantly reduce the operational expenditures of CTO, giving it more capacity to undertake its key functions of regional marketing, statistics and research, and product development.

CTO notes that this exercise will lead to some displacement, but firmly believes that it represents a strong revitalization of the organization. This is a necessary process to ensure tourism plays its most vital role as a means to bring about opportunity and prosperity for the people of the Caribbean.

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Turks & Caicos Islands’ ‘Junior Tourism Minister’ Wins CTO Tourism Youth Congress

JOHN’S, Antigua (7 Oct. 2019) -The representative of the Turks & Caicos Islands emerged the winner of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) Tourism Youth Congress held in the Antigua and Barbuda parliament building on Friday 4 October.

Fifteen-year-old Helena Jones Robinson High student Danae Dennie was among 14 ‘junior ministers of tourism’ from CTO member countries who exchanged thought-provoking and spirited presentations on topics related to the future of the industry.

Danae Dennie receives her prize from CTO’s acting secretary general, Neil Walters

Dennie presented a compelling presentation and offered suggestions to enhance the national tourism product of the Turks & Caicos Islands through a national tourism service programme, a visitor satisfaction review app dubbed “My Absolute Truth”, and a STAR awards programme.

The junior ministers each spoke on one of the topics of: ‘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 youth delegates were also each given a ‘mystery’ topic on which to speak.

In second place was Hailey Mahy, 15, of the Ursuline Convent School in Barbados, while Tobago’s Kayleigh Lewis, 16, of Scarborough Secondary placed third.

Dennie received a cruise for two compliments of Royal Caribbean International, while Mahy received two return tickets compliments of JetBlue, and Lewis received a cash prize of US$500 compliments of the CTO Scholarship Foundation.

The other junior ministers and commissioners of tourism who took part were: Jody-Ann Parker, 15, of Antigua & Barbuda; Akeya Herbert, 17, of the British Virgin Islands; Leanna Allen of the Cayman Islands; Jenna Thomas, 16, of Jamaica, Meïssane Carpin, 15, of Martinique; Brianne Chapman, 14, of Nevis; Anastasia Korstanje, 16, of St. Eustatius; Aneeda Hardat, 14, of St. Martin and Kenisha Castello, 15, of St. Vincent & the Grenadines.

The youth congress, which simulates a CTO council of ministers and commissions meeting, was chaired by the last year’s winner, Bryanna Hylton, 18, of Jamaica. It brought to an end two days of activities by the CTO – including business meetings and a Caribbean tourism sector outlook forum – held in collaboration with the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority and the ministry of tourism.

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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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