BRIDGETOWN — Calling 2016 “an impressive, yet challenging year” for Caribbean tourism, the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s Secretary General Hugh Riley says strong inbound visitor figures from Europe and the U.S. helped offset a tough year from the Canadian market.
Riley said the Caribbean is poised to meet its 30 million arrivals target set two years ago at its State of the Tourism Industry Conference. “Yet, amidst the year’s impressive achievements, the Canadian market was a concern,” said Riley. Traditionally a robust achiever, even during the tough global economic meltdown, Canada delivered declining numbers this year, sparked by the weakening of the Canadian dollar.
“We are moving to reverse that slide, combining our efforts with those of our CTO member-countries and our industry partners,” said Riley. The CTO is looking to hire a Business Development Representative in the first quarter of 2017 “to substantially enhance the Caribbean’s engagement in Canada’s most productive areas”, identify and develop business in non-traditional areas and work closely with our members’ representatives for maximum impact, he said.
New travel agent training and certification, increased use of targeted social media, enhanced deployment of the CTO’s data analysis tools, and more focused engagement with the Caribbean diaspora are all components of the 2017 strategy for Canada, Riley added.
While air arrivals to the Caribbean were up, key performance metrics for the region’s hotel industry recorded declined through the first half of 2016, based on data compiled by Smith Travel Research Inc. The slumps were influenced by a rise in room stock and a fall in demand for traditional hotel rooms, attributed in part to ‘the sharing economy’, e.g. Airbnb.
Mother Nature challenged the Caribbean as well, with some member countries affected in varying degrees by hurricanes. “Yet despite the adversities occasioned by these events, our resilience and fortitude as a region stood out and even the worst affected were back open for business in quick time, proving that tourism is an effective way to re-energize an economy following a natural or other disaster,” said Riley.
The onset of the Zika virus also presented a challenge and the CTO continues to work with its partners, the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association and the Caribbean Public Health Agency to address concerns raised by our suppliers and potential visitors.
The CTO also continues to monitor the possible impact of the Brexit vote as the UK moves to end and its membership in the European Union.
The CTO’s declaration of 2016 as ‘The Year of Romance’ in the Caribbean was a success story, with member-countries and industry partners organizing events or participating in roadshows specializing in romance, said Riley. “Our 30 Days of Caribbean Romance social media marathon reached 10.5 million people in June, while millions more were reached through the innovative Periscope Marathon and Tweet Chat featuring romantic places of the Caribbean, and our Five Romantic Facts about each member-country during Caribbean Tourism Month in November.”
What’s the theme for 2017? Riley announced that next year will be the ‘Year of Adventure’ in the Caribbean.