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As Caribbean tourism powers into 2019, the challenges of 2017 still cast a shadow. The good news is the region has recovered, and while adjustments are still being made, the outlook for the coming year is a positive one.
Last month, the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) staged its annual Caribbean Tourism Performance Review news conference, which was conducted via Facebook. In addition to CTO executives, participants included Pippa Jacks, group editor at U.K.-based Travel Trade Gazette, and Scott Laurence, senior vice president of airline planning for JetBlue.
“Although we have to reason throughout the year for people to come to the Caribbean, the demand is always going to be highest when the weather is poor in our main source markets,” said Hugh Riley, secretary general and CEO of the CTO. “What can we do to be a year-round destination and even out the seasonality curve? You’ll notice that the Caribbean keeps plugging festivals, carnivals and family events.”
This initiative to promote off-season travel will be bolstered the CTO’s push for 2019 as “The Year of Festivals.” Destinations throughout the region will host special events showcasing music, cuisine, rum, religion, sailing, art, literature and dance.
“We have a travel market that is quite resilient when it comes to the Caribbean, and we’re seeing some very good numbers,” said JetBlue’s Laurence. “I’m very pleased with our new service to St. Maarten, given the challenges we saw there with our St. Maarten/Fort Lauderdale service. We’ve also restored our Mint business service from New York and Boston on weekends to St. Maarten. That’s a significant move for us, and one we’re very pleased with.”
Laurence also noted that JetBlue will see a rise in the number of A321 aircraft on its flights to Jamaica, as well as an increase of capacity for Haiti.
“Something that’s come to the fore in the U.K. in the last 18 months is the responsible tourism side of things,” said Travel Trade Gazette’s Jacks. “We’ve been writing a hell of a lot about travel companies and hotel companies trying to operate more responsibly. The average U.K. holiday maker is becoming more aware of these things, and the Caribbean is well-positioned toward that market.”
As responsible tourism continues raising its profile in the U.K., travelers from the U.S. will see increased examples of sustainable tourism throughout the Caribbean. This positive impact on the region will give additional opportunities for your clients to seek out companies and destinations practicing responsible tourism.
“Should we do more about spreading our wings into nontraditional markets?” Riley said. “Yes, and we’re paying a great deal of attention to what’s happening in China and other parts of Asia. But with the resources the Caribbean has, we typically tend to fish where we know the fish are — the U.S., the U.K., Continental Europe, Caribbean — the places we know are our breadbasket areas, while still keeping an eye on emerging markets. The last thing in the world you ever want to do is leave yourself unprotected in areas that you know are your main sources of business. If you leave your flank unprotected the competition will eat your lunch.”
The DetailsCaribbean Tourism Organization www.onecaribbean.org