One Love - One Tour Operator
Speaking at the Caribbean Travel Forum on 09MAY at Sandals Royal Barbados, the country's Prime Minister, Mia Mottley, gave an impassioned speech advocating stakeholders take a more assertive approach to the area’s economic recovery, “ensuring growth for all”.
An outspoken Mottley told participants the way forward is through “the language of Marcus Mosiah Garvey popularized by Bob Marley to emancipate yourselves from the mental slavery that sees you being a taker and not a shaper.”
“For the most part, this modern incarnation of tourism has been driven by foreign capital, foreign airlift, foreign markets and by things that are exogenous,” Mottley points out. “We can decide while that is important and certainly represents the foundation on which we all stand today, it is insufficient to carry us forward.“
Mottley underscored the importance of developing the tourism industry in a way that not only reduces dependence on foreign entities, but also fosters economic empowerment for the region's citizens, enabling them to "shape their own destinies."
Indeed, Q1 numbers reflect the Caribbean is on track to surpass pre-pandemic levels of 2019. Despite being one of the fastest global regions to rebound from the COVID-19 devastation, Mottley points out the billions of dollars earned do not remain in local hands.
“If ever there was a time for cooperation and partnership across countries, across sectors, across almost every modality of how we function, it is now,” she declared.
The means to achieve those objectives, according to Mottley, is to form a major Caribbean tour operator “that is capable of marketing the Caribbean”.
As one of the most mature tourism destinations in the world, Mottley asserted, “there is a need to play an active role in determining our future.”
As travel demand continues to rise, Nicola Madden-Grieg, President of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA), reflected that “the recovery is uneven and some destinations are outpacing others” in terms of rebound.
According to statistics provided by CHTA, the top 3 destinations Canadian travellers are gravitating towards are Barbados, Turks & Caicos, and notably Aruba, which witnessed a significant 33 per cent surge in visitors during Q1.
Aruba is a stand-out success story in the region, boasting an impressive 98.4 per cent recovery rate for stay-over visitors, a 103 per cent increase in airlift from the US and a remarkable 111 per cent increase from Europe compared to 2019. Additionally, cruise passenger traffic is projected to reach 90 per cent of pre-pandemic levels this year.
A new Approach to Sun, Sand and Sea
Despite the positive messaging of evolving consumer travel patterns, with travel being a worldwide "megatrend”, the CHTA said it is shifting its marketing focus away from the traditional "sun, sand, and sea" approach.
Instead, organization members are directing efforts towards multi-destination marketing, enhancing inter-Caribbean air travel connectivity, and developing tourism linkages.
Unlike travellers to Europe who typically visit multiple countries over one overseas trip, the average visitor to the Caribbean tends to explore only one, speakers pointed out. The CHTA wants that to change.
The CHTA is looking to encourage consumers to change traditional travel patterns and explore more destinations within a single visit.
One example is Antigua and Barbuda's new campaign, 'And,' which promotes travel to the sister islands and celebrates their diversity.
Antigua is a hub for major cultural and sporting events like Carnival and Sailing Week, and known for its rich history. While Barbuda is renowned for its pristine pink sand beaches, tranquil setting and focus on wellness. The connectivity between the islands is offered by air and ferry services, allowing visitors to experience the best of both worlds.
In speaking to Marketplace attendants, the reaction to the overall messaging of engaging local economies was positive. Destinations are actively promoting “authentic” experiences generating a greater trickle down effect of tourism dollars into local wallets. That is being supported by government initiatives to invest in local businesses. And there was an undeniable sense of pride and place by participating representatives.