by Linda Straker
The Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) and other regional tourism partners are to embark on a campaign that will reflect a Caribbean that is ready to welcome and accommodate millions despite the fact that some islands were negatively impacted by hurricanes during the 2017 wet season.
Hugh Riley, Secretary General and Chief Executive Officer, CTO said that the outcome is to keep the tourists coming to the region because there are islands that are untouched by the hurricanes. “If Country A cannot take the demand then country B will be able to absorb it, we want the number to stay in the Caribbean,” Riley told reporter at the closing news conference for the State of the Caribbean Tourism Industry Conference (SOTIC) which concludes in Grenada on Friday.
The Caribbean had been performing at a healthy growth rate of 5.2% between January and June, when compared to the same period last year. Joy Jibrilu, Chairman of CTO Board of Directors said that during the conference the members and delegates were challenged to explore ways to help lift the people of the affected countries from the hardships imposed on them by the storms while at the same time, while being sensitive to the impacted members.
“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,” she said.
Less than half the member states of the CTO were affected by the major hurricanes during the 2017 wet season, but there seems to be confusion in the mind of some tourists that the entire Caribbean is devastated.
“There will still be a need to keep reminding the world that the distance between Barbados and Belize is more than 6 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 3 times further away from each other than New York to Washington DC,” she said.
The need to have an education campaign to bring clarity to the geography of the region was supported by Riley who explained that what is important at this time is for the region to find funds to commence the campaign that is expected to cost millions.
“It’s not just about the geography of the region but almost about educating and instilling confidence in the region. This campaign will be a built on the One Caribbean family campaign that was launched after 9/11, when we informed the world that ‘life needs the Caribbean,’ he said while admitting that following the high-level meeting which was chaired by Jamaica’s Tourism Minister Ed Bartlet, that there was general agreement that the Caribbean – both public and private sectors – must find the funds to get the message out.