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The 30th edition of Caribbean Travel Marketplace was recently held in the Bahamas at Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island. The Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA) held the three-day business-to-business marketing event. According to the Caribbean Tourism Organization, 2010 was a record year for stop-over arrivals to the Caribbean, with 23.1 million visitors. The forecast for 2011 is for 4 percent growth for another record of 24 million arrivals. Even so, in the eyes of CHTA president Josef Forstmayr, there is plenty of room for improvement. Forstmayr noted that “airlift is still inadequate and way too expensive for our visitors.” He also pointed out the dismal performance of intra-Caribbean tourism, which once represented 13 percent of the region’s tourism. Forstmayr spoke against the region’s lack of a competitive regional airline, inflated ticket prices and the aggravation of visas, long immigration lines and bureaucratic red tape.
“[Travel and tourism] is the fastest way to create jobs, grow the economy and generate income for all,” said Forstmayr. “Every citizen needs to understand that — whether or not he or she works directly in the tourism areas — every tourist’s dollar brings economic and social benefits to every level of our society.”
Here is some of the news and buzz generated on the trade floor.
BahamasLater this year, the Bahamas will begin marketing 16 separate island groups within the island chain. Each will have their own logo and will be heralded as a multiple-destination experience within one destination, with each island group having its own unique culture and appeal. Getting around will be easy, since the Bahamas has 50 government owned and operated regional airports and 15 international airports. Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, the Bahamas’ minister of tourism, is a fan of low-cost, high- quality, high-frequency air connections, and agents can expect to see some attractive domestic airfare offers promoting the new island grouping marketing initiative.
Trinidad & TobagoAgents can expect to see Trinidad & Tobago promoting the dual islands’ cuisine and special events. The destination received an unexpected marketing windfall when Trinidadian Anya Ayoung-Chee won the 2011 season of “Project Runway.” Ayoung-Chee, inspired by a trip to Tobago, integrated laid-back styles and island colors and textures in her winning designs.
Cornell Buckradee, general manager of marketing for the Tourism Development Company Limited of Trinidad & Tobago, noted that a growing market is the Indian destination wedding market. Trinidad has a substantial Indian heritage and the on-island destination weddings feature all the bells-and-whistles associated with the traditional Indian wedding.
Island RoutesIsland Routes will be adding golf programs in Jamaica in 2012.
“Every element of the golf experience will be considered and accommodated,” said David Shields, general manager of Island Routes Caribbean Adventure Tours.
Shields also noted that the company will be launching two new Kingston Cultural Heritage Tours.
“One tour will focus on the musical heritage of Kingston and also visits Trenchtown,” said Shields. “The second will concentrate on Kingston as a national, cultural and historical attraction.”
This year, Island Routes also joined with the Sandals Foundation to take Caribbean visitors on a Reading Road Trip, a voluntourism initiative that brings together guests with students ages 5-7 to engage in activities geared at improving the youngsters’ literacy, vocabulary and comprehension.
MLT VacationsMLT Vacations continues to be a great partner for agents. Through Delta Vacations, travelers will find additional service via Delta Air Lines from New York (JFK) to San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, as well as additional service from New York (LGA) to Nassau, Bahamas. Through United Vacations, customers have access to one-stop shopping with the expanded route network of Continental Airlines and United Airlines flights to the Caribbean from the U.S. and Canada.
Cape AirCape Air’s Caribbean presence has expanded with the start of service between St. Croix, USVI and Vieques, Puerto Rico, as well as daily, year-round service between San Juan, Puerto Rico and Nevis, West Indies. While the service between St. Croix and Vieques is currently slated to run seasonally, Andrew Bonney, vice president of planning for Cape Air, noted that, “if the demand is there, we are prepared to entertain the notion of making St. Croix to Vieques a year-round route.” Daily flights between San Juan and Nevis will operate year-round.
AMResortsAMResorts continues its impressive forward motion. The company will debut the newly-built 495-room Secrets The Vine Cancun in August 2012. The resort will have special appeal to oenophiles, having a wine cellar with seating for up to 30 guests, 3,000 varieties of wine and sommelier-led tastings of some of the world’s finest wine collections.
Marc Andre, director of sales for the Caribbean, noted that the company is also looking at expanding into Aruba and the U.S. Virgin Islands, but that there are no firm plans as of yet.
Jolly BeachPatrice Simon, sales and marketing manager for Jolly Beach Resort & Spa, an all-inclusive property on Antigua, noted that the resort has a new 1,500 square feet casino.
“There has been a lot of demand, and this is a new feature on our side of the island,” Simon said. “Our new casino is fully open and has both slots and live tables.”
Elite Island ResortsElite Island Resorts announced its acquisition of the former Almond Morgan Bay St. Lucia, now renamed Morgan Bay Beach Resort, St. Lucia.
“The purchase of Morgan Bay presented a unique opportunity for us to expand our destinations and was the obvious next step for our ever-growing collection,” said Steven Heydt, president, Elite Island Resorts. “Our understanding of marketing the Caribbean will help re-launch this all-inclusive resort to a greater audience of travelers. Further, Elite’s management expertise in creating an unparalleled all-inclusive vacation will enhance the guest experience on every level.”
Grand Lucayan, BahamasGrand Lucayan, Bahamas, formerly Our Lucaya Beach & Golf Resort, has gone through a number of changes.
“The message we want to get out is that we are clearly open for business,” said Thomas M. Anderson, chief marketing officer, Grand Lucayan Bahamas. “We closed The Reef, but the 519-room Grand Lucayan is still open.”
The resort has been receiving inquiries about all-inclusive options and Anderson said there is a possibility the resort will offer such a plan.
“We could segregate one restaurant for all-inclusive guests,” Anderson noted. “We already have meal packages, and we’re aware that the customer wants predictability at the end of their vacation.”
Anderson reiterated that the resort desires strong relationships with agents (70 percent of its business comes from agents and tour operators) and agent rates are available.
“We’ll also be looking to grow our business in the Midwest and West Coast,” said Anderson.