BASSETERRE, St Kitts (15 December 2017) – Delegates attending the Climate Smart Sustainable Tourism Forum (CSSTF) held this week heard some dramatic stories that demonstrated the resolve and resilience of the territories worst affected by the hurricanes Irma and Maria in September, during the Tourism Recovery roundtable at the Forum.
The discussion focused on four areas: destination access, supply capacity, marketing and public relations, and how destinations can get television coverage. It was one of the highlights of day two of the three-day conference.
The panel featured representatives from Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, the British Virgin Islands, Dominica, St. Maarten and Turks and Caicos Islands. It was hosted by the Forum’s keynote speaker, Gregory McKenzie and his twin brother, Michael, both of whom are BBC presenters and producers.
The countries’ representatives shared with the audience the national and international efforts following the storms, including how the countries worked closely with agencies on the ground to restore ports and tourist sites, as well as how partners in markets across the region and around the world assisted with raising funds and awareness of their situation. They also gave detailed updates on their room stock and general timelines for the re-opening of hotels.
The panellists were also able to speak about the channels being used to let others know that the countries are open for business and the ways in which they seek to manage visitor expectations.
The session’s hosts gave suggestions on approaches that could be adopted to improve the chances of media coverage on the various destinations, advising that the officials would first need to consider how to attract the particular audience’s attention to the story.
The McKenzie brothers recommended, as well, that the stories must be about people, and to build on those stories by creatively weaving in information about the territory, what it has to offer and how it aims to achieve sustainability.
In a true Caribbean fashion, the participants also used the Forum as a storytelling opportunity, sharing first-hand accounts of the devastation and recovery efforts that might not have fallen within the discussion areas. They also committed to keep providing the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) with regular updates to be shared with the wider public.
The roundtable was the latest effort by theCTO to provide avenues for impacted countries to disseminate detailed, first-hand accounts of their status, including the efforts to rebuild and reopen their countries.
In addition to being the hub for reliable information for both media and the general public before and after the storms, the CTO also facilitated the sharing of information on what was needed to recover and rebuild stronger by organising a special session at the State of the Tourism Industry Conference in Grenada last October.
A number of key entities and partners, including the Caribbean Development Bank, the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, The Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association, airlines, cruise lines, and telecommunications companies, shared invaluable details at that session.
“The CTO was both proactive and reactive in providing regular updates and granting interviews to virtually every major media outlet in our key markets during and after the hurricanes on a daily basis using information provided by official government sources from the destinations that were both adversely impacted as well as those that were spared any damage from the storms,” according to Hugh Riley, the secretary general.
“Our use of social media has been prolific. In addition, we worked closely with the private sector through our partner, the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association, to gather information from the hotels in order to properly inform all media which hotels were open and which facilities were damaged. In this way, a daily report was provided to the media with real-time information on the hotels and the destinations following the hurricanes.
“The roundtable at the Climate Smart Sustainable Tourism Forum was one more such opportunity provided by the CTO as we continue to seek avenues to help all our member countries tell their stories. Of the six destinations on stage, three had been visited by us immediately after the hurricanes, so the details we were able to provide in those critical early stages were also first-hand accounts,” Mr. Riley explained.
The CSSTF, which was organised jointly with the St. Kitts ministry of tourism, was the region’s bespoke event in observance of the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, themed, “Good for Use, Better for All”.