With a diverse membership of more than 30 countries and territories, the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) certainly has its challenges as an organized body trying to focus on the entire region of the Caribbean as a single destination entity.
It was everything Caribbean yesterday (Aug. 22) in Toronto as the CTO hosted its annual Caribbean Media Day – highlighted by a news conference, marketplace and luncheon.
Dominic Fedee, chair of the Caribbean Tourism Organization and minister of tourism for Saint Lucia, was on hand and said the CTO’s vision remains to position the Caribbean as the most desirable, year round, warm weather destination, a goal that is not without its issues.
“We at the CTO are going through an interesting time in our history. It is a time of restructuring, it is a time of reinventing ourselves,” said Fedee. “Times are changing.”
He added, “the CTO [must play] a more significant role in positioning the Caribbean as a tourism brand. It is perhaps one of the best brands in the world with a wealth of potential, but it is perhaps the most neglected tourism brand in the world.”
Fedee said member countries are all small, located in the same region and face the same challenges, the same focus, and the same markets.
“What we’ve got to do is combine our resources… by coming together we can build a stronger and bigger lethal force as a Caribbean brand. It is such a diverse product,” he said. “We believe we can offer a lot more to the world.”
Fedee said the CTO must be a “lean, mean machine,” and with member countries facing domestic challenges must strategically use the current allocations they receive from members and offer a better return on investments.
Statistically, the CTO chair said the Caribbean has experienced “very strong growth” and has rebounded nicely from 2017’s active hurricane season.
“We have seen a significant spike in the numbers, the Caribbean has grown by 12%. It really speaks to the resilience of the Caribbean people, it speaks to resilience of our industry and it speaks to the resilience of our governments.”
From Canada, 1.4 million Canadians visited in the first quarter of this year alone.
Fedee noted that trends in the Caribbean must continue to go beyond the beach. In St. Lucia, for example, a “village tourism” program has been established. A focus on festivals, carnivals and special events must also continue.
The cruise industry also remains impactful in the Caribbean and one Fedee says must be taken advantage of.
“We need to milk it. It’s an opportunity. They [the cruise lines] bring them [thousands of passengers] for free for a day to sample our product. We need to get them to come back and stay longer.”
Among the members represented at the Toronto event were Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Martinique, the Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos.
Meanwhile, with the retirement of Hugh Riley in June, a search for a new secretary general for the CTO continues. Fedee said the position should be filled by the end of the year.