Arguably the Caribbean's biggest trade show of the year, the 38th annual Caribbean Travel Marketplace is currently underway.
PAX is currently on location to bring you all the highlights. Host sponsors this year include the Islands of the Bahamas, the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association, Baha Mar, and Nassau Paradise Island. More than 11,000 appointments and meetings continue to unfold on the tradeshow floor, and tourism boards have been actively sharing some of the most important updates from the destinations they represent.
Hosted by the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA), this year's event welcomes hotel and destination representatives, wholesalers and tour operators, online travel agencies, MICE planners and worldwide travel media for several days of site inspections, meetings and pre-scheduled appointments.
CHTA Marketplace runs Jan. 21 through Jan. 23 in Nassau, Bahamas and welcomes 1,020 delegates from 19 key markets and 28 Caribbean countries, 148 buyer companies, and 215 supplier companies.
After last night's opening ceremony, the CHTA kicked off the first of a a series of press conferences this afternoon, which also included updates from the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, Nassau Paradise Island Promotion Board, the St. Lucia Tourism Authority, the Jamaica Tourist Board, AMResorts, the Curacao Tourism Board, and Destination Puerto Rico, the island's newest marketing arm.
A record-breaking year for the Caribbean
Despite six major Caribbean destinations still rebounding from 2017 hurricanes, and several destinations recovering from climate-related issues this year, the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) is reporting that 2019 ended on a high note.
Opening this year’s CHTA Marketplace earlier today (Jan. 22), CHTA panel members, which included Frank Comito, CEO and Director General; Vanessa Ledesma, COO; Patricia Affonso-Dass, President; Karolin Troubetzkoy, Chairman, CHTA Education Foundation; Karen Whitt, First Vice President, CHTA and Caribbean Travel Marketplace Chair; and Marcelo G. Tangioni, country manager Caribbean, Mastercard.
According to Comito, there’s a ton of new and upgraded hotel product in the Caribbean, which led 2019 to be a record year in terms of the average daily rate (ADR), which rose 5.9 per cent, as well as for room inventory, which grew by 2.8 per cent (4,451 new rooms) to encompass 259,538 rooms throughout the Caribbean. Thousands more are on the way for 2020 and beyond, in order to match the uptake in overall arrivals, which also rose by four per cent in the first nine months of the year, according to the CTO.
Occupancy dipped by 2.7 per cent, but there were two underlying factors, Comito shared. The first was Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas, and the second was the situation in the Dominican Republic, in which the reporting of multiple tourist deaths were sensationalized by the media on an international scale.
Why accuracy matters so much
Sensational or inaccurate reporting, such as the case in the news that came out of the Dominican Republic in 2019, was actually one of the biggest challenges the CHTA faced this year, especially when navigating a media landscape which encompasses consumer, trade, and social media.
In the case of both the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic, Comito notes that while the trade media was largely supportive, some consumer news outlets left out crucial bits of information that, although might seem small, actually have surreal and long-lasting effects for those who call the island home.
During a tragedy, Comito said fair and accurate reporting is so important because “it really affects lives and livelihoods. Our goal is to protect and enhance the safety and the wellbeing of people, and the travel trade does a really great job of continuing to understand our range, which really makes a difference in lives, employment bounce back times, employability, and tax revenues to fund recovery.”
Whether you're a travel agent selling a Caribbean destination, or a supplier or member of the media sharing news about a destination, Comito stresses that it's important to check the facts first before circulating or redistributing any news, especially during a time of crisis.
On that note, rallying together in the face of adversity is something the CHTA does best.
“A big part of the CHTA’s role is standing up for all of our members, not just when things are good, but when things are really tough, too,” said Affonso-Dass. “At the end of the day, we’re 33 different jurisdictions, but we’re one region, and many of the issues that affect our individual islands affect the region. If we can speak with a strong united voice, that always helps the region as a whole.”
The CHTA also shared the results of its fifth annual Industry Performance and Outlook survey which is done in order to better understand the state of the tourism economy, its outlook, and the degree to which a number of factors impact or may affect the tourism industry.
Air arrivals to the Caribbean rose 4.4 per cent in 2019, which aligns nicely with global air arrivals, Comito noted. Six major destinations impacted by Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria, who are still in the recovery process, are also rebounding quite nicely.
“Our tourism performance and hotel inventory right now in those six major destinations impacted by the 2017 hurricanes are basically nearing pre-2017 hurricane levels, and they’re all experiencing incredible upgraded product,” Comito said. “Typically, it takes four years for a country that experiences disaster to rebound fully, and all of these countries are right on track.”
Puerto Rico, for example, has 95 per cent of its hotel stock back online, and continues to break ground on exciting new products.
Looking ahead to 2020, the CHTA says that despite negative factors that could put a damper on tourism to the region, like the U.S. recession, climate change, and political environments in source markets, the overall outlook on tourism to the Caribbean continues to be overwhelmingly supportive.
“The strength of the tourism economy in the Caribbean is positive, and that’s what we like,” Comito concluded.
Stay tuned for more coverage on this year's Caribbean Travel Marketplace! If you're attending this year's conference, don't forget to tag your social media posts using #CHTAMarketplace20.
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