“We need to measure success beyond visitor numbers”: CTO’s challenges

TORONTO — For all its strengths, for all its potential, the Caribbean brand “is perhaps the most neglected tourism brand in the world”, says CTO Chair and Saint Lucia’s Tourism Minister, Dominic Fedee. The good news, according to Fedee, is that there’s finally the momentum to make some real changes.

The CTO should be ready to announce its new Secretary General by the end of this year and that will bring fresh leadership, said Fedee at yesterday’s CTO press conference in Toronto.

The CTO also sees other tourism brands surging ahead and wants to make sure it doesn’t get left behind. Marshalling its resources means going big with big data, to target not just demographics but psychographics, where market research analysis goes beyond age and looks at lifestyles, attitudes and opinions.

“We need to measure our success beyond visitor arrival numbers,” said Fedee. “Times are changing and it’s clear we need to go in a different direction. We can do a much better job in terms of how we manage and collect data. The CTO needs to be the hub of tourism research in the Caribbean and Latin America. To do that, we’ve got to make sure we combine our resources.”

He added: “People are looking for more than just a warm weather destination. For one thing, we want to make sure our festivals play a significant role in attracting visitors. We want to offer people unique experiences that they can’t get anywhere else in the world.”

If changes aren’t made, there could be trouble ahead, says Fedee. “I think the CTO is losing its position that it used to have 20 years ago. We need to maintain and grow what we have [in terms of market share]. We want to make sure the CTO is a lean, mean machine.”

Thankfully for now the Caribbean is having no problem attracting visitors to its sunny shores. While global tourism is up 4.4%, tourism to the Caribbean specifically is up 12%. “The Caribbean has returned to very strong growth,” says Fedee.

Of course the Canadian market is a strong and steady performer for the Caribbean, and the 2018/2019 winter season was no exception. Q1 stats for 2019 included 1.4 million Canadian visits to the Caribbean.

Asked about the D.R., which has had a tough couple of months particularly with the U.S. market, Fedee had this to say: “The Dominican Republic is a very strong, very resilient country. They’ll be back. They’re making a lot of steps to correct the situation. And the Caribbean is stronger with a strong Dominican Republic.”