FREEPORT, Bahamas Increased collaboration among Caribbean nations
and coordinated regional air connections or a single Caribbean
carrier are needed to boost Caribbean tourism, Bahamas Prime
Minister Perry G. Christie urged during the 25th Annual Caribbean
Tourism Conference (CTC-25).
Caribbean “reinvention” is needed to lure the region’s flat
tourism, but it won’t happen with its current “daily intent to
cooperate,” a theory that also applies to the region’s airlines,
most of which are bleeding red ink.
“Bahamasair loses money, Air Jamaica loses much money, BWIA
loses much money, same for Caribbean Star, LIAT, Cayman Airways,”
Christie said. “Where are the coordinated air services to our
islands? Where are the coordinated route-planning meetings between
the carriers of the Caribbean?
“We must find a way to lock the CEOs of these carriers in a room
and refuse to open the door until they have a plan that will reduce
our losses and increase our services to and throughout the
On the retail side, small Caribbean hotels that aren’t
affiliated with tour operators have been impacted by airline
commission cuts, said agent Sue Heffner, president of the CTO
chapter in Sacramento, Calif.
“There’s a segment caught in the commission crossfire and that’s
the small hotels,” Heffner said.
She cited an example of how she recently sold a cruise to a
honeymooning couple instead of a Caribbean vacation that would have
cost her clients $1,200 each in airfare.
Themed Reinventing Caribbean Tourism, CTC-25 drew approximately
800 delegates, including 190 travel agents, to Our Lucaya resort on
Grand Bahama Island.
Of the 32-member Caribbean Tourism Organization, 27 countries
were represented. Only a handful of delegates from Jamaica
Globally, visitor competition remains fierce, but the largest
Caribbean nations The Bahamas, Jamaica, Cuba, Barbados, the Cayman
Islands, Bermuda and Puerto Rico still view each other as “mortal
competitors,” Christie said.
“From Cuba to China, from New York to Hong Kong, from Disney to
Universal Studios, the competition for visitors has never been
tougher,” he added.
Christie pointed out that agents selling the Caribbean must
specialize their skills to compete with Internet bookings and
consider specialized supplier partnerships.
“The new travel agent will have to convince the customers that
their specialized and discriminating knowledge of our region or
country will warrant their services,” he said. “In the same way
that there is a group of specialized agents selling cruise travel
based on a business relationship, there is an urgent need for
specialized Caribbean travel agents based on the same kind of
Christie also took aim at the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s
new regional marketing campaign, Life Needs the Caribbean, a
public-private sector television promotion, now halted until after
the Nov. 5 congressional elections in the United States.
“I understand that the regional television campaign has access
to advertising rates that are often lower than the cost being paid
by contributing countries for their own individual campaigns,” he
said. “We do not collaborate enough in our region on those business
issues that will save our treasuries much cost and make our efforts
much more effective.”
The first phase of the $16 million campaign began airing Aug.
21, and an additional eight-week schedule was targeted for Sept.
16. However, a CTO committee canceled it Oct. 16, citing U.S.
The campaign has been ineffective for small islands, stated
Dwyer Astaphan, tourism minister for St. Kitts, describing small
Eastern Caribbean nations as “mere bridesmaids.”
In related news, research outlined by NFO Plog Research
of New Brunswick, N.J., revealed that travel agent usage by
Caribbean leisure travelers is continuing a “slow decline as an
More than half of Caribbean vacations are being booked
on the Internet, said Gregory Diaz, Plog’s director of travel
Caribbean leisure travelers typically are affluent
couples with few children, an average age of 47 and a preference