The 2010 Caribbean Marketplace Proposes Island Unity

Tourism organizations agree there is a need for enhanced cooperation

By: By Mark Rogers

Photo Tour

Click here to view photo from the 2010 Caribbean Marketplace

The message coming out of last month’s 2010 Caribbean Marketplace was loud and clear: There is a need for enhanced marketing cooperation among the islands.

One such messenger was Jaime A. Lopez Diaz, executive director, Puerto Rico Tourism Company, who said, “One of the lessons of this year is that we have to work together as one region. Our competition is not island-to-island — we’re competing against the rest of the world.”

Skeptics can be forgiven for wondering if this clarion call for unity will fade into a whisper over the coming months. The Caribbean islands have a rich history of calling for cooperation and then adopting an individual wait-and-see stance that effectively hobbles achievement. It will take some aggressive and persuasive leaders to forge a unified tourism effort in the Caribbean.

This year, just prior to the marketplace, Caribbean Tourism Organization tourism ministers held their own meeting in San Juan and emerged with a Memorandum of Understanding. One of the proposed initiatives is multi-destination marketing and the sharing of data. It’s a given that each Caribbean destination has a uniqueness of its own, but there’s also a level of compatibility of product that would lend itself to dual-destination packages. The multi-destination initiative will begin with a series of case studies. As an example, Lopez pointed to a possible package pairing the upcoming W Resort on Vieques, Puerto Rico, with La Samanna on St. Maarten or Jumby Bay, A Rosewood Resort in Antigua.

Enrique De Marchena Kaluche // (c) 2010

Enrique De Marchena Kaluche speaks to the crowd during the
2010 Caribbean Marketplace.
// © Mark Rogers

Enrique De Marchena Kaluche, president of the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA), called for a Caribbean marketing plan funded by a proposed $10 tax on airline tickets to the Caribbean. As proposed, the tax would be split to enable individual governments to use $5 of each tax for its own destination marketing while allocating the other $5 to a sustainable marketing fund for the entire region.

“Some destinations do not want to impose a $10 fee and say they will supply their share from government funds, but how realistic is that, when governments have had their budgets reduced?” said Alec Sanguinetti, CEO and director general of CHTA.

De Marchena Kaluche noted that unity is not enough, that what is needed is unity of action, and said,

“Some islands clearly see that action is needed and will not wait for those other islands to make up their minds to go forward.”

He then listed Jamaica, Barbados, the Dominican Republic and Cuba as destinations clearly driving the motion to unity. He added that the sense of urgency is most evident in the Caribbean’s private sector.

As an example of previous proposals that failed to carry out their initiative, De Marchena Kaluche pointed to a Caricom Heads of Government agreement at the July 2007 tourism summit on Antigua on the subject of implementing a regional marketing program and get sustainable funding for the program. De Marchena Kaluche noted that more than two years later, Caricom has not yet agreed on a formula despite serious difficulties facing the industry.

Amidst the smoke of hopefulness, there was some crystal-clear news generated by the conference. The Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association named Noel A. Lynch as deputy director general and director of membership, reporting directly to Sanguinetti. Sir Royston O. Hopkin, KCMG, chairman and owner of Spice Island Beach Resort in Grenada, received the Star Diamond Award from the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences for Outstanding Leadership In Environmental Conservation and Sustainable Tourism. Richard J Doumeng of Bolongo Bay Beach Resort in St. Thomas was honored as Caribbean Hotelier of the Year. On receiving his award, Doumeng looked out on the audience of Caribbean tourism players and remarked that he was still considered a “Young Turk” among them, even at the age of 52.

The annual Caribbean Marketplace is organized by the CHTA, and brings together international wholesalers and tour operators to meet with Caribbean hoteliers and suppliers to spark tourism business throughout the region. The 2010 Caribbean Marketplace was held in San Juan on Jan. 10-12 and attracted a total of 1,311 delegates in attendance, just slightly down from 2009’s figure of 1,521.

Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association