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A legacy that will shape future generations – CTO statement on the passing of Gordon “Butch” Stewart

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados – 5 Jan. 2021 – It is with great sadness that the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) has learned of the death of Jamaican and Caribbean hospitality icon, Gordon “Butch” Stewart. The CTO member countries, allied members and staff join the government and people of Jamaica, the Stewart family, the Sandals family, and the regional and international tourism and hospitality sector in mourning his passing.

Mr. Stewart has been a faithful and passionate servant of Caribbean tourism for four decades and his dedication was fully demonstrated through his many outstanding achievements. His was a virtual lifetime of high performance, devotion to country and the Caribbean and commitment to excellence in the hospitality sector.

To quote his son, Adam, Mr. Stewart was a “gifted entrepreneur,” a “marketing genius,” and “a dreamer who could dream bigger and better than anyone.” There is no greater testament to this than his success as the founder and leader of the world-renowned Sandals and Beaches resort brands, along with the innovations he brought to these brands.

Mr. Stewart was a mentor to many, and his contributions have touched almost every sector of Jamaican and Caribbean society. His passing is a great loss to the entire region. He was a true travel and tourism and business icon and his legacy will shape future generations. ​

Posted in: 2021 News, Blog, Corporate News

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New Year’s Message from CTO Acting Secretary General, Neil Walters

As we look forward to the New Year, 2021, it is very timely that we pause and reflect on the year to which we bid farewell.

Certainly, 2020 was a year which highlighted many of our vulnerabilities, but more importantly, it taught us many lessons about our abilities to adapt in the face of crisis; abilities which I am sure many of us did not even know existed.

The COVID-19 pandemic crippled the economies of several countries, with the most serious effects being felt in small economies and specifically those reliant on travel and the movement of people. Indeed, these two characteristics essentially describe all the countries of the Caribbean, and consequently, from an economic standpoint, the Caribbean has been one of the hardest hit regions in the world.

Fortunately, for the most part, as a region we have been able to control the spread of the virus within our local populations. This has been achieved by the implementation of very stringent control mechanisms which have varied from state to state, and included in most instances, temporary closure of international borders.

By the last quarter of 2020, most of the countries in the Caribbean had reopened their borders and the vast majority of reopened countries had also started accepting commercial travel and visitors to their shores. In all cases, this process has been done within the parameters of protocols designed to complement the health infrastructure of the country.

The stories which depict this process of infection control and reopening of borders in the face of second and third waves of viral spread in our main source markets, speak volumes about the adaptability of our people and specifically about the travel and tourism sector in the Caribbean which has been given no choice, other than to quickly identify, learn and adapt to the changing environment we have experienced over the past 12 months.

We therefore move into 2021 armed with a new set of lessons learnt and with the proof that the Caribbean tourism sector along with its counterpart in public health has the collaborative power to restart, reenergize and rebuild tourism in the Caribbean stronger and more resilient, and ready to face the next challenge.

Experts have indicated, that based on the results of past pandemics in our history, a two-year period of recovery to return to ‘normalcy’ can be expected. Based on that prediction, we can expect ‘normal’ conditions beyond December 2021. Indeed, our concept of ‘normal’ is compounded by the view that the measures we have implemented to control the spread of the virus may stay with us for an indefinite period.

While the pandemic has threatened the Caribbean tourism sector, it has also created the opportunity for us to assess the sector and implement actions which have been difficult during the last twenty to thirty years of mass tourism. The pandemic has identified one critical common factor – the need for change, the need to think outside of the box and identify different ways of doing things. Since the falloff in tourism activity in March 2020, all tourism policy makers, destination management organizations and other tourism stakeholders have spent time critically analyzing and rethinking the way they manage tourism in their individual destinations. This has led to a spirit of greater cooperation and collaboration which was needed in the sector but which has now been clearly shown to be critical to the sector’s future and its success.

All of this has also been mirrored at the regional level, where regional stakeholders in tourism, health and general government have collaborated to create standards for the reopening of the sector and continued to collaborate in the face of an ever-changing regional and extra-regional environment.

During 2021, the programmes of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) will continue the work started in 2020 on research, product development – including heritage and community-based tourism – and human resources development – including a regional tourism sector human resources audit and training. In addition, our collaborative efforts will continue to ensure that the tourism sector works with other sectors such as health to enhance the prospects of the region as we transition to a new paradigm of normalcy.

Our collective efforts to date have positioned the Caribbean, from a global standpoint, in this pandemic, as a region which is healthy and safe for travel. It is a position which we must defend, while we make every effort to improve on the other facets of the visitor experience.

In the New Year message for 2020, we were lauding ourselves for recovering in 2019, after the 2017 hurricanes and for exceeding the world average for tourism growth. While those traditional metrics may paint a different picture this year, we in the Caribbean can still be pleased with our efforts. This time we have proven ourselves leaders, via the collaboration of tourism and public health to create protocols for the reopening of the sector.

We still cannot rest on our laurels, but continue to use the momentum created by our efforts in 2020 and the resilience of our people to rebuild the tourism sector like all other sectors to full functionality again, and buttress it against all future challenges which, although we pray otherwise, are sure to come.

On behalf of the CTO Council of Ministers and Commissioners of Tourism, Board of Directors and the staff of the CTO, I want to say thank you to all of our partners and stakeholders, both regionally and internationally, for your collaborative efforts in 2020, and we look forward to further collaboration in 2021. I wish for us all a year filled with health, blessings, growth, and prosperity for this region we love.

Posted in: 2020 News, Blog, Corporate News

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Experts to examine Caribbean tourism and economic recovery this Friday

MIAMI, Florida (December 8, 2020) – Strategies for the quick recovery of Caribbean economies from the devastation wrought by the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic will be discussed by regional and global stakeholders at a virtual forum hosted by the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA), Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), and the Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre (GTRCMC) on Friday, December 11, 2020.

Moderated by veteran Caribbean journalist Julian Rogers, “Tourism: The Key to the Caribbean’s Economic Recovery” will bring together public and private sector leaders, the international tourism development community, members of civil society and the media to identify lessons learned from the pandemic and to address how the highly tourism-dependent region can harness the economic power of tourism to mitigate the impact of the pandemic and revitalize the region’s economies.

Panelists include Lisa Cummins, Barbados’ Minister of Tourism and Chairman of CTO; Edmund Bartlett, Minister of Tourism of Jamaica and Co-Chair of GTRCMC; CHTA’s CEO and Director General Frank Comito; Michel Julian, Senior Programme Officer with the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO); and Virginia Messina, Managing Director of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC). Other Caribbean leaders are expected to join the discussion.

A key goal of the forum is assessing tourism’s impact on Caribbean economies and identifying joint actions which can facilitate tourism’s recovery and strengthen the region’s economies. The forum will draw upon the thinking of the participating organizations as well as the desire of many Caribbean Heads of Government as expressed recently at a CARICOM meeting for the region to take a collaborative and comprehensive approach to stimulating and accelerating tourism’s recovery.

During the online forum, participants will examine the resilience of the sector and how the Caribbean’s dependence on tourism for economic stimulation will increase in the post-COVID future as tourism is likely to bounce back sooner and faster than other segments of the economy.

National, regional and global policy stakeholders are encouraged to attend the forum.

To reserve a space for the forum on Friday, December 11 at 10 a.m. ET, visit https://member.caribbeanhotelandtourism.com/link.asp?ymlink=648160603

Posted in: 2020 News, Blog, Corporate News

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Potential Visitors to get Virtual Sampling of What They Can’t Wait to Experience in the Caribbean

The Caribbean Tourism Organization hosts “live” demonstrations and a webinar for travel advisers as part of Caribbean Tourism Month programme of activities. 

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (16  Nov. 2020) – Be it an Antiguan “Lift Off”, blissful Grenadian “Chocolate and Spice”, or some good old-fashion Dominican herbal tea, potential visitors to the Caribbean – along with travel advisers who sell holidays to the region – will this week get a virtual taste of some of the many Caribbean experiences they simply can’t wait to enjoy again.

The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), in collaboration with member countries, will host a series of activities this week to highlight the diversity of the Caribbean tourism product, while keeping the region foremost on the minds of would-be travellers.

Under the theme, The Caribbean Awaits, the CTO will host “live” demonstrations on Wednesday 18th and Thursday 19th November, beginning at 11:00 a.m. Eastern Caribbean time – 10:00 a.m. in New York, 3:00 p.m. in the UK – during which some of the region’s most talented mixologists and chefs will prepare and display their unique blends and aromatic flavours. The general public can view these demonstrations on the CTO’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/CaribbeanTourismOrganization.

The demonstrations will be followed by a virtual learning session on Friday 20th November at which CTO member countries will share updates and unique selling points with travel advisers who sell holidays to the Caribbean. This session also begins at 11:00 a.m. Eastern Caribbean time. Travel advisers who will to participate will have to first register at https://bit.ly/3nbMc4s.

These activities are part of a programme in observance of Caribbean Tourism Month, which also includes a social media campaign aimed at maintaining the Caribbean’s prominence as a place of solace as COVID-19 continues to impact the global travel and tourism industry. Throughout the month of November, the general public is being encouraged to share on social media, the things they “can’t wait to experience” in the Caribbean, using the hashtag #TheCaribbeanAwaits. The CTO has also launched a photo and video campaign reflecting the theme to promote excitement about the Caribbean.

Introduced in 2011, Caribbean Tourism Month has as its primary objectives the creation of opportunities to raise awareness among the people of the Caribbean as to the importance of tourism to the development of the region; the generation of media coverage of the Caribbean tourism product and each destination’s local tourism product; and the celebration of the diversity of the Caribbean tourism product. This year’s observance holds special significance due to the impact of COVID-19 on the industry.

Posted in: 2020 News, Blog, Corporate News

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CTO Produces Multi-Hazard Risk Management Guide for Caribbean Tourism

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (13 Nov. 2020) – Caribbean tourism practitioners and policymakers in the public and private sectors now have a practical tool to help them prepare for, and manage, multiple hazards that pose a risk to the industry.

The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) – the region’s tourism development agency – has produced the ‘Multi-Hazard Risk Management Guide for the Caribbean Tourism Sector’, which addresses all phases of the disaster management cycle.

The guide provides frameworks, guidelines and strategies, including recommended actions for each of the eight CTO-recognised sub-sectors of tourism: accommodation providers, food and beverage operations, transport services, recreation and entertainment businesses, event and conference facilities and providers of tourism support services, which include the travel trade and national tourism organisations.

“The CTO is highly cognizant of the changing needs of tourism in the region, and through this initiative, we are working to better serve our member countries by providing them with the knowledge and tools to more effectively mitigate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from the multiple threats posed by natural and man-made hazards,” said Neil Walters, the CTO’s acting secretary general. “The current COVID-19 crisis emphasises the importance of initiatives such as this one taken by the CTO to aid in successful tourism management and enhance resilience and sustainability.”

In order to help prepare member countries to use the guide effectively, the CTO recently hosted a regional disaster management workshop for 33 public and private sector representatives from member countries whose role includes support for disaster management at the national and/or enterprise level.

A significant outcome of the training – facilitated by international consultant, Evan Green, who finalised the guide –  was that each participant would complete a tourism emergency assessment plan for a tourism business or destination. They were also asked to produce an interim operations strategy which includes messaging to communicate business interruption following a hazard, as part of business continuity planning.

A training-of-trainers workshop was also held for a core group of seven participants from Dominica – the first in a series of such workshops planned in order to create a pool of trainers at the national level.

These exercises formed part of the CTO’s ‘Supporting a Climate Smart and Sustainable Caribbean Tourism Industry’ project being implemented with funding and technical support to the tune of €460,173 from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), through the African Caribbean Pacific and European Union- funded Natural Disaster Risk Management (NDRM) programme.

“Climate and disaster risks pose serious challenges to the sustainability of the Caribbean tourism industry. The training on the multi-hazard risk management guide is critical to equip key tourism stakeholders with the tools and skills needed to manage these risks. We are pleased to collaborate with CTO and support such an important initiative,” said Dr. Yves Personna, the CDB’s project manager for the NDRM programme.


Posted in: 2020 News, Blog, Corporate News

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CTO Non-Government Members Elect New Board

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (10 Nov. 2020) – A cadre of former Caribbean destination management officials has been elected to the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) allied member board of directors by the private sector members of the organization. At its recent election to select a team of five to represent their interests on the CTO board of directors and executive committee, the allied members chose a diverse group, chaired by William “Billy” Griffith, a former CEO of the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc, now managing director of WCG Consulting Ltd.

“I am honoured to have been elected to represent the allied members of the CTO and represent this diverse group of companies, as its chairman, at this critical stage of our tourism destiny,” said Griffith. “My immediate priority will be to re-energise and increase the membership base, build capacity and work with the executive branch on a cohesive plan to recover from the devastating effects of COVID-19.”

Griffith is one of three new allied members elected to the five-member board. The other two are Seleni Matus, a former director of tourism in Belize, now executive director of the International Institute of Tourism Studies at George Washington University, and Sharon Flax-Brutus, a former director of tourism of the British Virgin Islands, now director and strategist at White Oleander Destinations.

“Strong regional tourism organisations are important now more than ever before. I am delighted to work alongside a great group of regional leaders to assist the Caribbean Tourism Organization and its member states to create new tools and partnerships that will enhance resilience and sustainability of the tourism industry,” said Matus.

“As a director of the allied board I would first like us to help the organisation to regain the confidence of the private sector so that our membership can not only grow but be representative of the various sectors of the tourism industry,” added Flax-Brutus. “I would also like to see increased opportunities for allied members to participate in, and facilitate more, dialogue on how we can all work together for the benefit of Caribbean tourism.”

The new board members will be supported by returning members, Jacqueline Johnson, the CEO of Global Bridal Group and MarryCaribbean.com, and Barry Brown, Afar Media’s executive director for the Caribbean. Both have served on the allied board for many years and both have renewed their commitment to supporting the CTO’s objectives.

“I am happy to be a part of the allied board of the CTO. Particularly in these unprecedented times, allieds have an opportunity to rebuild interest and support for this most vibrant organisation as it creates a new vision for the future,” said Brown.

“I am very pleased with the roster of talent available to help with the rebuilding of the organisation during and after the COVID-19 crisis. The pool of skilled tourism practitioners from the region speaks volume about the importance of tourism and the need to ‘build better together,’” said Johnson. “I am delighted to be included in this important roster of professionals.”

Through various activities and events, the allied members utilise their wide roster of professionals and expertise to assist the CTO with its development programme for Caribbean tourism. In consultation with the wider allied membership, the board makes recommendations on regional tourism programmes to the CTO board of directors, identifies opportunities to build the CTO’s non-government membership programme, and coordinates key activities during major CTO events, including the allied marketing conference and networking initiatives for government and allied members.

Elections for the allied board are held every two years for the private sector and non-governmental members of the CTO. This year’s election was held virtually for the first time.

Posted in: 2020 News, Blog, Corporate News

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