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New Year’s Message from Hugh Riley, Secretary General, CTO

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (28 December, 2018) – As the Caribbean tourism sector prepares to welcome the New Year, we look forward to 2019 with a sense of optimism, excitement and much hope. We are optimistic because we are seeing signs that the lows which Mother Nature imposed upon us during the latter part of 2017 into 2018 are being reversed. We are excited about our prospects because of the incredible turnaround that we are seeing in the most impacted destinations. And we hopeful that the progress of our member countries and supporters can continue unabated, to maintain the momentum they developed since the storms of 2017 when everyone rolled up their sleeves and got down to work to build an improved and more sustainable product.

We are pleased to report that tourism accommodations are being rebuilt and reopened, airports are receiving their full schedule of flights with the return of airlines in full force and the diverse product offerings within our destinations are being restored.

At the same time, increases in the number of available seats, positive messaging and promotions in the marketplace have enabled the unaffected destinations to register continuous growth. The demand among international visitors is strong and Caribbean nationals have continued their quest to explore and enjoy the pleasures of their neighbouring destinations.

Regarding the cruise sector, most ports have been repaired and cruise calls have already returned to normal levels. Indeed, regional cruise visits grew in each month since May, with the region registering growth of 13.7 per cent during the May to September period and 17.1 per cent in the third quarter of 2018.

In October, the region launched a digital awareness campaign “The Rhythm Never Stops” on social media platforms such as YouTube and Facebook, coinciding with augmented airlift for the 2018/19 tourist winter season. Travel professionals and their clients received the message that the Caribbean is a resilient region with an unstoppable resolve to succeed and to keep on moving in the right direction.

For 2019, the outlook is bright for our destinations. We’re quite excited about declaring 2019 as the “Year of Festivals” in the Caribbean. Simply stated, there’s a rhythm to the region that cannot be replicated anywhere on earth. There’s no escaping the melody of nature, as gentle breezes and free-flowing fronds combine beautifully in perfect harmony; no getting away from the heavenly choruses of tides caressing magnificent world class beaches; no missing the cadence of our conversation, the tempo of our movement.

The Caribbean is a festival of rhythms and a home of festivals – music, art, literary, sailing, lights, food, rum, religious, dance – all with their own attractive rhythms.

The Year of Festivals will focus on the fascinating events that have become an integral part of the Caribbean tourism calendar. Festivals help to energize communities across the region, while giving visitors more reasons to enjoy our destinations.

Despite all there is to celebrate in 2019, we must also approach the New Year with a degree of caution since there’s still much work to be done. While preliminary data from our member countries revealed increased demand for travel to the vast majority of the 24 reporting countries, and despite a 9.1 per cent increase in arrivals in September 2018 when compared to the same month in 2017, overall our performance was still down in 2018. A third quarter decline of 3.2 per cent made this our best quarter, and the rate of tourist arrivals is now expected to slow to -1.0 per cent to -2.0 per cent – a definite sign that the tide is turning. Cruise passenger arrivals are projected to grow at an accelerated rate of around 6 per cent to 7 per cent.

Without doubt, our region is in a stronger position than it was a year ago. We are encouraged by the prospect of even greater collaboration with our partners in the industry, including the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association, the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association, and a range of travel professionals and industry partners who consistently offer Caribbean holiday experiences to their best clients. Our confidence is buoyed by the progress our region is making to combine its resources to bolster our competitive position internationally. The evidence is clear that a strong, unified Caribbean gives the region a global advantage which individual member-countries on their own have little chance of attaining. The success of our countries rests upon our ability to speak as a region with one strong voice.

On behalf of the CTO Council of ministers and commissioners of tourism, the board of directors, members and staff of the Caribbean Tourism Organization, I thank you for all your commitment, hard work and support in 2018, and wish you a New Year of rich blessings and prosperity.

Posted in: 2018 News, Blog, Corporate News

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CTO Declares 2019 ‘The Year of Festivals’ in the Caribbean

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (14 Dec. 2018) – On the heels of the past year’s successful Year of Rejuvenation, the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) has declared 2019 the Year of Festivals in the Caribbean. Throughout 2019, the region will celebrate the unique rhythm and tempo of each CTO destination.

“The Year of Festivals will focus on the fascinating events that have become an integral part of the Caribbean tourism calendar. Festivals help to energize communities across the region, while giving visitors more reasons to enjoy our destinations,” said Hugh Riley, Secretary General of CTO.

“In addition to providing an opportune time for vacationers to visit, these celebrations also emphasize the unique characteristics that define the many diverse backgrounds and traditions which comprise the Caribbean’s cultural tapestry,” added Riley.

The 2019 Caribbean Year of Festivals will be promoted through social media and traditional media channels and will create opportunities for travellers and vacation planners to share their experiences.

“While each destination is unique and inviting in its own right, the common denominator for all Caribbean societies is a yearning to celebrate life – and each Caribbean country provides a beat that can’t be replicated elsewhere,” said Riley.

“The Year of Festivals will highlight music, art, sailing, lights, food, rum, religious, literary and dance festivals celebrated throughout the region. It’s a theme which can easily be embraced by all CTO member destinations,” Riley noted.

Throughout 2019, the CTO will assist member countries with an assortment of promotional concepts and opportunities which can be implemented around the theme of festivals to appeal to consumers, travel professionals and creators of unique vacation experiences.

About the Caribbean Tourism Organization

The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), with headquarters in Barbados, offices in New York and London and representation in Canada, is the Caribbean’s tourism development agency comprising membership of the region’s finest countries and territories including Dutch, English, French and Spanish-speaking, as well as a myriad of private sector allied members. The CTO’s vision is to position the Caribbean as the most desirable, year round, warm weather destination, and its purpose is Leading Sustainable Tourism – One Sea, One Voice, One Caribbean.

Among the benefits to its members the organization provides specialized support and technical assistance in sustainable tourism development, marketing, communications, advocacy, human resource development, event planning & execution and research & information technology.

Posted in: 2018 News, Blog, Corporate News

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CTO Wins ‘Favourite Roadshow”

We are really thrilled to be voted as Favourite Roadshow for the Selling Travel Agents Choice Awards. Travel agents are exceptionally important partners and it’s critical that we maintain regular contact with them and to keep educating them about the many attractive attributes of the Caribbean so they can keep selling the region.

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CTO Announces the Winners of the 2018 Caribbean Travel Media Awards

London, UK 7 November, 2018: The Caribbean Tourism Organization has announced the winners of the 2018 Caribbean Travel Media Awards. On Monday, 5 November over 60 members of the UK media joined visiting Caribbean Ministers, UK Chapter Members and Caribbean partners at an exclusive networking evening, held at the Fox @Excel, to celebrate the winners and runners up of the ten category awards.

The big winner on the night was Ursula Barzey of Caribbean & Co., who scooped the ‘Best of the Best’ award out of over 130 entries for her consistency in producing outstanding content about the Caribbean. Other award wins for Ursula were in the Best Social Media category for an all-encompassing #NextStopGrenada Campaign; and Best Caribbean Round up for an insightful 10 facts-about-the-Caribbean-region enthusing travellers to refine their travel search.

In the very competitive Best Consumer Feature category, Will Bruton won on all counts for his dazzling account of an authentic sailing holiday in ‘Fall in Love with Antigua’ in *Yachting Monthly.

The award for Best Travel Trade went to Tamara Hinson for an excellent Tobago Nature Tour review in Travel Weekly while the award for Best Online Feature went to Rupert Parker for his quirky and fun story of Mangoes, Food and History in Nevis for metro.co.uk.

Sally Peck picked up the Best National Newspaper award for an enticing ‘Nevis, Me and a Honeymoon for One’, feature in the Telegraph, with Best Regional Newspaper going to Hannah Stephenson for her account of volunteering in Jamaica, published across 40 regional newspapers, including yorkshireeveningpost.co.uk.

Amongst the other accolades were Blogger duo, Yaya and Lloyd of Hand Luggage Only, who won the Best Blog Post award for their captivating stories and images of St. Kitts across their social media platforms entitled Your Essential Guide of Things to do in St Kitts.

The Best Broadcast award was won by *BBC Two’s excellent production of ‘An Island Parish Anguilla – After the Hurricane’ which offered a heart-warming overview of life on the island a year after the hurricane and as the re-building begins. Finally, Best Photojournalism was won by Julianna Barnaby for a ‘Nevis Travel Guide’ Things to do in Nevis featuring brilliant imagery and content in her blog, The Discoveries Of.

Opening the Awards Ceremony Carol Hay said, “The standard of entries this year was extremely high and I was pleased to note such highly engaging and informative articles, digital and non-digital, as well as great video and photography. On behalf of the Caribbean Tourism Organization, I would like to congratulate all the finalists, especially our winners and our 2018 overall winner, Ursula Barzey. Each entry plays its part in raising awareness of the Caribbean as a region, and this year has been no exception. I would also like to thank the Judges for their excellent reviews and scoring and the sponsors who very generously provided the prizes.”

The 2018 Caribbean Travel Media Awards winners, runners-up (2nd and 3rd place respectively) and sponsors were:

Best Travel Trade Feature:
1st place: TAMARA HINSON ‘Tobago Natural Tour’, Travel Weekly
2nd : Laura French (Travel Weekly)
3rd: Andrew Doherty (TTG)
Sponsor: Bahamas Tourist Office-London

Best National Newspaper Feature:
1st place: SALLY PECK, ‘Nevis, me and a honeymoon for one’
2nd : Tamara Hinson (Express Weekend)
3rd: Keith Miller (Telegraph)
Sponsor: Saint Lucia Tourism Authority

Best Regional Newspaper Feature:
1st place: HANNAH STEPHENSON, ‘Here’s to Voluntourism’, PA
2nd: Oxford Mail/Oxford Times
3rd: Nicola Brady, Evening Standard
Sponsor: InterCaribbean

Best Consumer Feature:
1st place: WILL BRUTON, ‘Fall in love with Antigua’, Yachting Monthly
2nd : Vitali Vitaliev, Geographical
3rd: Fred Mawer, Sunday Telegraph and Katie Bowman, Sunday Times Travel Magazine
Sponsor: Discover Dominica Authority

Best Broadcast TV and Radio Feature:
1st place: DONNA CLARKE & CHRIS MITCHELL, An Island Parish Anguilla – After the Hurricane
2nd: Alison Hammond, ITV
3rd: Cathy Bartrop, Travelguru TV
Sponsor: St. Kitts Tourism Authority

Best Online Feature:
1st: RUPERT PARKER, ‘Stunning beaches and bags of culture in Nevis’, Metro.co.uk
2nd: Oliver Smith, Telegraph Online
3rd: Amy Hopkins, Family Traveller
Sponsor: Kuoni

Best Blog Feature:
1st place: LLOYD AND YAYA, ‘The Essential Guide to visiting St. Kitts’, Hand Luggage Only
2nd: Macca Sherifi, Adventurous World
3rd: Terry Lee, LiveShareTravel
Sponsor: Antigua & Barbuda Tourism Authority

Best Piece of Photojournalism:
1st place: JULIANNA BARNABY, ‘Nevis Travel Guide’,  The Discoveries of
2nd: Andrew & Emily, Along Dusty Roads
3rd: Nick Robertson-Brown, Scubaverse
Sponsor: Tobago Tourism Agency

Best Social Media Campaign:
1st place: URSULA BARZEY, ‘#NextStopGrenada, Caribbean & Co.
2nd: Caroline & Nick Robertson-Brown, Scubaverse
3rd: Heather Cowper, Heather on her travels
Sponsor:  St. Vincent and the Grenadines Tourist Office

Best Caribbean Round Up:
1st place: URSULA BARZEY, ‘10 Facts About The Caribbean Region’, Caribbean & Co.
2nd: Heather Cowper, Heather on her travels
and Nigel Tisdall, Telegraph
Sponsor: Caribbean Tourism Organization

About the Caribbean Media Awards
The Caribbean Travel Media Awards celebrate and reward the very best representation of the Caribbean by the media industry in the areas of writing, photography, digital media, broadcast media, publishing and trade. Within each category, points are awarded for the Best representation of the Caribbean as an attractive region to travel to; Best representation of the island featured within the Category; Best promotion of the key USP’s of the island featured within the Category and, finally, Originality of the campaign, article, video or blog.   The 2018 Caribbean Travel Media Awards were reviewed and judged by a panel of 11 Judges, made up of high-profile individuals representing the travel industry and media.

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Remarks by Hugh Riley Sec. Gen. CTO, State of the Tourism Industry Conference, Friday 5 October, 2018

I’m excited at the prospects for the CTO and the critical role it can play in unifying the Caribbean, not simply as a tourism destination, but as a people destined for greatness.

I’m convinced that a well-supported, well-funded, CTO can take its place alongside other venerable institutions to lift the people of the Caribbean to incredible heights that are attainable but not yet achieved.

The organisation’s leadership in tourism and its contribution to the development of our human resources will help drive strong economies and build reliable, competent and productive workforces and Caribbean populations that are ready to face an ever-changing global environment.

The CTO’s leadership was on full display this week through the experts we brought together to share insights into how we can better build a lasting and sustainable tourism sector that will benefit every individual, every community, every country in this region.

We dared to challenge the region to build better, not just the infrastructure, but the entire industry. We explored applicable recommendations for the use of technology, not only to improve the visitors’ experience, but our lot as a people. We boldly tackled controversial issues such as commoditizing our cultures without exploiting them and embracing the Caribbean as a region of roots.

We brought these issues to the forefront not because they’re popular, but because we are convinced they must be successfully addressed sooner rather than later, if we are to truly build a Caribbean tourism industry for the future.

And there’s no better way to shape the future than to involve our young people. There isn’t a single person among those who were in the room for yesterday’s youth congress, or among the approximately three thousand people who watched it live on the CTO Facebook page, who will disagree with me when I say we have some of the most creative, imaginative and smartest young people anywhere.

They are the ones who will be challenged to continue building the tourism industry on the foundation that has been laid by today’s leaders and yesterday’s pioneers. Based on the strength of their performances yesterday, I’m confident that the future of tourism is bright.

In this context, allow me to congratulate the youth congress winner, Jamaica’s Bryanna Hylton, as well as St. Maarten’s Kiara Meyers and Caroline Pain of Martinique, who placed in the top three.

I know you’d also like an update on our The Rhythm Never Stops campaign; I’m happy to advise that the campaign will be launched this coming Monday, thanks to the public- and private sector stakeholders who contributed to this important first phase.

On the region’s tourism performance, it has been a tale of two situations. On the one hand, we have robust growth in countries that were not affected by last year’s hurricanes.

On the other, we have seen dramatic decreases in arrivals to those hit by the storms, although the performances of these countries are steadily improving.

Of the 22 reporting destinations, 13 of them registered increases in tourist arrivals during the first half of the year, ranging from 1.7 percent to 18.3, while seven recorded decreases of between a negligible -0.3 percent and 71 percent.

The top performing destination during this period were Guyana at 18.3 percent, Belize at 17.1 percent, the Cayman Islands at 15.9 percent, and Grenada at 10.7 percent and the Bahamas at 10.2 percent.

These individual results substantiate the regional messaging of the openness of the destinations for business and the confidence in destinations to deliver quality experiences.

The performances of the key source markets varied considerably, with some destinations recording strong growth, while others registered declines.

In the US market, for example, while Jamaica reported growth of 8.4 percent, the Dominican Republic was up by 6.3 percent and 11 other destinations achieved growth, six of which were by double digits, the Caribbean received Seven million visits from the US during the first half of the year.

This was a 15.8 percent decrease when compared to the corresponding period last year, due mainly to a 54.6 percent fall in arrivals to Puerto Rico and decreases in arrivals to Cuba.

On the other hand, there was a new record in arrivals from Canada for this time of year, with 2.4 million overnight international tourists, representing a 4.7 percent increase.

Arrivals from Europe also increased, though marginally at 0.3 per cent, with three million tourists visiting the Caribbean during the first half of the year.

Belize led the way with 24.3 percent growth, followed by Guyana at 9.4% percent, Curaçao 6.2 percent and Saint Lucia at 4.5 percent. However, overall growth was impacted by steep falls in arrivals to Anguilla, Puerto Rico and Bermuda.

There was also a marginal decline of 0.5 per cent in cruise visits, although there are signs of improvement. Of the 23 reporting destinations, 15 realized improvement upon their 2017 performances with Trinidad & Tobago registering increases of 166 percent, St. Vincent & the Grenadines up by 84 percent and Martinique at 54.7 percent, leading on growth rates.

However, this was countered by declines of nearly 90 percent in the British Virgin Islands, Dominica was down by 88.4 percent, St. Maarten down 27.5 per cent, and the US Virgin Islands decreased by 22.5 percent. Puerto Rico, though hurricane-impacted, posted a 1.1 percent increase during the period.

The region’s competitive advantages of a diverse tourism product and safety and security are still intact. Destinations are rebuilding, and new tourism products and services are being restored daily in the destinations impacted by last year’s hurricanes.

Our research department anticipates an overall decline of between three and four per cent this year, but predicts a 4.3 percent increase next year.

Cruise, on the other hand, is projected to grow by five per cent to six per cent this year.

Let me take the opportunity to thank Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar, director general Joy Jibrilu and team at the Bahamas ministry of tourism, as well as our own CTO staff for working so hard to pull off a wonderful State of the Tourism Industry conference, and I thank you for your participation.

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