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Remarks by Joy Jibrilu, Chairman, CTO Board of Directors, at the SOTIC 2017

This has been one of the most important weeks in our recent history, with this conference coming in the wake of two of the most vicious hurricanes ever to hit the region, both in terms of intensity and the unforgiving nature of the devastation.

We were challenged this week to explore ways to help lift the people of the affected countries from the hardships imposed on them by the storms.

At the same time, while being sensitive to the impacted members of the CTO family, we were also challenged to consider ways to tell the world that most of the Caribbean remains open for business.

We recognised that there is a need by consumers, the media  and even travel industry professionals, of a greater understanding of the geography of the region.

Hence, there was general agreement that the Caribbean – both public and private sectors – must find the funds to get the message out.

Many of our friends in the local and international media have been doing a fine job is helping us tell the story, for which I’d like to thank them. However, when the crisis is over, when the story ends, when the issues change, the media will move on.

There will still be a need to keep reminding the world that the distance between Barbados and Belize is more than six times as great as Toronto to Montreal; that New York to Chicago is only half as far as the Bahamas to Grenada; Guyana to Cuba is twice as far as London to Rome and that Dominica and the Dominican Republic are more than three times further away from each other than New York to Washington DC.

Amid the adversity, came a renewed spirit of partnership; as cruise lines, the media, the hotel sector and governments, all came together with a single goal in mind – to help the affected recover.

We saw yesterday during the Recover and Rebuild session the spirit of cooperation, as the various partners contributed ideas on how to emerge from the hard times – bigger, stronger and more sustainable.

It was also an opportunity for the affected countries to share their stories and garner support.

This session will help to inform into the UNWTO, Government of Jamaica, World Bank Group and Inter-American Development Bank Global Conference on Jobs and Inclusive Growth, scheduled for November 27 to 29 in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

Here in Grenada, Minister Ed Bartlett of Jamaica chaired a high-level meeting with the aim of developing a strategic framework for the establishment of a Global Caribbean Tourism Recovery Team (GCTRT) to coordinate the tourism product restoration efforts.

Also present at the meeting were representatives of the UNWTO, the World Travel and Tourism Council, The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association, the Caribbean Tourism Organization and the Jamaica Tourism Development Company.

It was agreed that a Global Caribbean Tourism Recovery Team (GCTRT) would be established under the chairmanship of Minister Bartlett, and would include representatives of the CHTA, CTO, the WTTC and the UNWTO.

A secretariat will be established, with responsibility for coordinating the technical support, capacity building, communication strategy, multilateral and bilateral agency engagement, as well as the management of public/private partnership arrangements regarding the restoration of the tourism product across the Caribbean.

The secretariat will have its first meeting later in October, when the formal strategic framework and governance structure will be developed.

Now, a brief word on the region’s performance so far this year.

The Caribbean had been performing at a healthy growth rate of 5.2 per cent between January and June, when compared to the same period last year.

This reflected economic stability in the market, expansion and inauguration of flights by major carriers, and new marketing and product development initiatives.

During the first six months, the region recorded 16.6 million international tourist arrivals, some 800 thousand more than in the first six months of 2016.

Growth was recorded in all major source markets except South America, which contracted by 14.3 per cent.

Up to June, the European market had grown by 7.9 per cent, Canada by 6.4 per cent and, despite the weak sterling, the UK by 4.8 per cent.

In the hotel industry, the half-year outcomes reported by STR Global showed that average occupancy increased marginally by 0.2 percentage points to 70.8 per cent, while the average daily room rate rose slightly by 0.2 per cent, moving from US$220.84 in 2016 to US$221.38 in 2017.

Like tourist arrivals, growth in the cruise sector also remained positive and stronger than the expected performance in the first half of the year. At the end of the first six months of 2017, it is estimated that cruise passenger arrivals to the Caribbean region had reached 15.3 million, 4.0 per cent more than in the corresponding period of 2016. This performance represented the largest number of cruise passengers in the region at this time of year.

However, with the passage of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the growth rate will slow down in the remaining quarters of the year.

Hence, the expected growth rate of tourist arrivals will range between 1.0 per cent and 2.0 per cent in 2017, with the 2018 performance expected to be similar.

Let me take the opportunity on behalf of the chairman, Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar and the CTO, to thank you for your support, Minister Clarice Modeste-Curwen and team at the ministry of tourism; CEO Patricia Maher and the Grenada Tourism Authority team; and our own staff at the CTO for working so hard to execute a more successful SOTIC than many of us could ever have predicted.

Thank you for your participation.

Posted in: 2017 News, Blog, SOTIC

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Statement by CTO Secretary General, Hugh Riley, at the Opening Ceremony of SOTIC 2017

On behalf of the Chairman of the CTO’s Council of Ministers, whom I will introduce shortly, and on behalf of Mrs. Joy Jibrilu, the Chair of the CTO’s Board of Directors, I welcome you.

When the next chapter in the history of Caribbean tourism is written, the year 2017 will have a special mention.

Specifically, September will be remembered as the month when Hurricanes Irma, Jose and Maria, and a major earthquake, unleashed fury on parts of our beautiful Caribbean and other sections of The Americas.

Within a matter of weeks Mother Nature wrought her destructive power on Anguilla, Barbuda, the Bahamas, the British Virgin Islands, Cuba, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Florida, Mexico, Puerto Rico, St. Barts, Sint Maarten, St. Martin, Texas, Turks and Caicos Islands, and the U.S Virgin Islands, leaving in her wake death – and damage to property and economies in the tens of billions of dollars.

For us at the CTO, the 2017 State of the Tourism Industry Conference will be remembered as an event that created tremendous ambivalence.

Should we or should we not have a conference at this time?

How should we position it?

Have the reasons we created the SOTIC in the first place all gone away?

How do we balance the competing realities that for some, normality has come to a screeching halt – against the inevitability that life must go on?

And how should we counsel our members? Those that have suffered losses and are now struggling under the weight of the recovery process, are perhaps not able to take time away to attend a conference!

And what about those who were not impacted?

How would they feel if the CTO made a decision to set aside this important gathering, and leave it to the individual countries – each doing their own separate thing to keep their doors open and fuel the engine that keeps their economy running?

Those who are here, have answered those questions for us. In our opinion, and the opinion of our Chairman, whose country itself was impacted, you have made an important decision, and we thank you for being here.

The public sector and the private sector, the journalists, the students and the academics, the country representatives who can barely afford to take time away from the business of reconstructing their lives, we are honored by your presence here.

We have come to a place to share views on best practices, to exchange ideas on the way forward, to say thank you to neighbors and friends, to commiserate with each other, to celebrate being alive, and to take decisive actions that will help us to build economies that are sound and sustainable.

Because we get to write our own chapter in Caribbean tourism history, all of us gathered here over the next three days, actually have the wherewithal to determine the outcome of this conference in some individual way.

This must be the one where we learn from the events of the recent past, using those lessons to build a better, stronger future. The one where we accept that anyone of us can be knocked down hard at any time, but we must learn how to fight through the pain and rise again.

Just ask Grenada. Ask Dr. Keith Mitchell, who was also the Prime Minister when Hurricane Ivan ravaged this island in 2004. Ask Dr. Clarice Modeste, at the time the Minister of Works, what this island looked like with 90% of the buildings damaged.

This could be the SOTIC where we form such a strong One Caribbean Alliance and create such a meaningful resource that we never again find ourselves scrambling for funding just to be able to teach the world the geography of the Caribbean.

This could be the one where we convince our own people of the importance of tourism, not only as a debt reduction, employment generating, foreign exchange earning tool, – which it is – but also as a means to form lasting partnerships and strengthen the bonds among us.

Let us commit to doing whatever we possibly can to get our impacted brothers and sisters up and running again. Let us thank those who have opened their doors and their wallets, their schools and facilities, their hotels and their ships, to provide for and to accommodate their neighbors.

Let us reaffirm our commitment to use the power of the Caribbean brand to convince discerning visitors that the way to enhance their own lives, is to take full advantage of the uniquely enjoyable vacation experiences this region has to offer, knowing full well that the best way to help the Caribbean is to visit the Caribbean.

Let us never lose confidence in the enduring strength of the Caribbean brand.

 

Posted in: 2017 News, Blog, SOTIC

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Statement by Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism on UNWTO Initiative to Assist in Caribbean Recovery

KINGSTON, Jamaica (4 October, 2017) – Jamaica continues to extend our thoughts and prayers to our Caribbean brothers and sisters, especially residents in those islands that took a direct hit from the recent hurricanes and to everyone who has been or will be affected as a result of these catastrophic storms.

We recognize that the entire Caribbean region will be adversely impacted by the lasting results of Hurricanes Irma and Maria and have set a course of action that is designed to minimize the long-term effect on the region.

We acknowledge, with thanks, receipt from the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), in conjunction with the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA), the periodic status reports issued in cooperation with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), and applaud the efforts at assisting the region and ensuring that timely and accurate information is disseminated.

We are aware that CTO and CDEMA technical teams have been on the ground in the various islands doing rapid needs assessments and coordinating with the national authorities in managing the various interventions, to mitigate the pain and hardships that are so pervasive at this time.

As a direct result of these unprecedented hurricanes, a meeting was convened by the World Tourism Organization – the United Nations specialised agency responsible for the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism (UNWTO) – at the General Assembly in Chengdu, China on 13 September, 2017. There were some 10 countries from the Caribbean and Latin America represented at the meeting – Bahamas, Barbados, Colombia, Costa, Cuba, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Venezuela – in addition to representatives from the USA, France, Spain, the Netherlands, the UNWTO and the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC). Trinidad and Tobago, a Caribbean member of the UNWTO, was absent from the general assembly.

The outcome of that meeting was a decision to assist in the Caribbean natural disaster risk management and response initiatives and to include in the programme for the UNWTO, Government of Jamaica and World Bank Group Conference on Jobs and Inclusive Growth: Partnerships for Sustainable Tourism in Montego Bay, Jamaica from 27-29 November, an opportunity for all interested parties to discuss and implement a plan of action.

As a proud host of this important global summit, Jamaica is honoured that the UNWTO has asked that I coordinate its involvement in this recovery effort for the region. The first step therefore was to reach out to the regional tourism organizations – CTO, CHTA and CDEMA – to brainstorm opportunities for collaboration.

Along with representatives of CTO and CHTA, we discussed how the CTO’s State of the Tourism Industry Conference (SOTIC) taking place in Grenada on 10 -13 October could feed into the special session in Jamaica, and that a document will emerge from SOTIC which will help to inform that session at the Jamaica/UNWTO summit.

The portion of the SOTIC conference which will inform discussion at the Jamaica/UNWTO event is the Recover & Rebuild session, scheduled for 12 October.

The Recover & Rebuild session will be an in-depth four-hour segment where we will hear from leading experts in disaster preparedness and mitigation, recovery, funding, airport development and maintenance, airlines, cruise lines, telecommunications and media, as well as representatives of the hotel sector and member countries that have experienced – and recovered from – major catastrophes.

Recover & Rebuild will focus on the economic cost of the disasters, including the potential impact on gross domestic product, employment, the cost to rebuild and the recovery time. Key recommendations emerging from Recover & Rebuild will form part of the comprehensive document which we believe will have industry-wide international significance.

We urge everyone in the travel, hospitality and tourism industry including airlines, airport managers, cruise lines, cruise port managers, hoteliers, tour operators, travel agents and my fellow Ministers and Directors of Tourism across the region, as well as in our source markets, especially those in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, to attend both the SOTIC in Grenada from 10 to 13 October and the UNWTO meeting in Montego Bay, Jamaica on 27-29 November. These two crucial events will help set the course for recovery and growth for all of us over the next year and shape the future of tourism for the Caribbean region.

Posted in: 2017 News, Blog, Caribbean Recovery

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CTO Launches Relief Fund to Assist With Hurricane Aid Efforts

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (8 Sept, 2017) – The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) has activated its “CTO Relief Fund” through GoFundMe to help families and countries rebuild after hurricanes, particularly in the wake of the massive category 5 Hurricane Irma, which has impacted a number of member countries.

All of the money raised through the CTO’s Relief Fund will be sent directly to CTO-member destinations affected by the catastrophic storm, which hit some countries with winds up to 185 mph.

“The damage caused by the force of Hurricane Irma is an important example of why we must do whatever is possible to provide financial relief to those who need it most. It’s through this fund that the CTO channels monetary assistance to our impacted member states,” CTO secretary general Hugh Riley said. “The CTO appreciates all donations to assist in the recovery efforts in these countries.”

For more information on CTO’s Relief Fund or to make a donation, visit www.gofundme.com/hurricane-relief-fund-cto.

Posted in: 2017 News, Blog, Corporate News

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STATEMENT FROM THE CTO ON HURRICANE IRMA

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (5 Sept, 2017) – As Hurricane Irma, a dangerous Category 5 storm, churns its way towards the northern Leeward Islands and the northern Caribbean, including the Bahamas, Cuba and Haiti,  the Caribbean Tourism Organization expresses concern for residents and visitors in the countries that are in the hurricane’s projected path, and pray that the impact will be reduced.

We have been in contact with our members and they assure us that they have been taking all the necessary steps to ensure that they are in a state of readiness.

We take this storm seriously. The safety of the Caribbean’s citizens and our visitors is the number one concern for the authorities and emergency response teams throughout the region.

The CTO is actively monitoring the hurricane and will share updates from our member countries on www.onecaribbean.org and our social media channels, as they become available.

Posted in: 2017 News, Blog

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