Kenneth Bryan, chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), described the first post-pandemic Caribbean Week in New York as a success. Public and private sector leaders and stakeholders addressed priority issues impacting the region at various meetings and activities.
The week’s events in New York comprised business meetings; an informative tourism marketing forum, during which speakers examined current travel trends and future projections for the region’s main economic driver; and a bustling Media Marketplace, where officials shared travel and tourism updates with the members of the working press.
Speaking at a press conference on the final day of Caribbean Week, Chairman Bryan, who also serves as the Minister of Tourism and Ports for the Cayman Islands, said that the CTO was committed to continuing the development of research, knowledge and information. This approach is intended to guide its members on “how best to be effective in the tourism industry but also to help us market what we do as a region.”
A critical issue discussed during the ministerial meetings was the persistent problem of sargassum washing up on the region’s beaches, damaging foreshores and negatively impacting tourism. Suggesting the phenomenon was caused by global warming, Bryan stated that the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) was endeavoring to identify strategies to manage the onslaught of the malodorous seaweed, such as implementing preventative measures or collecting the sargassum for positive uses.
Air connectivity was a significant point of discussion for the assembled tourism directors, ministers and commissioners of tourism. Bryan acknowledged the challenges destinations are facing due to the high costs associated with airline operations, saying “There’s no easy solution.” In addition to dialogue with the World Bank, CARICOM and the Caribbean Development Bank, studies are underway to explore solutions for financing increased connectivity in the short- and medium-term.
Bryan revealed that destinations with their own airlines, such as the Cayman Islands and the Bahamas, “are trying to work on ways of helping our brothers and sisters with connectivity.”
During the meeting, the CTO officially welcomed Bermuda back as its 25th member. Bryan expressed his ambition to increase the membership to 30. The CTO recently celebrated the U.S. Virgin Islands’ return to its fold.
Discussing the organization’s financial condition, Bryan reported improvement as member countries and territories continued to recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis. Many destinations, he noted, were performing better than they were in 2019 with average daily rates “through the roof.”
“So our finances are back (on stream),” he said, enabling the organization to restructure and adapt its marketing strategies to the evolving landscape.
“Marketing today is totally different than it was even five years ago,” Bryan said, citing strategies such as leveraging influencer marketing and using artificial intelligence to maximize arrivals and revenue.
Bryan disclosed that the CTO is also exploring ways to augment revenue through data sharing and data research. Furthermore, progress has been made in identifying a candidate to fill the position of secretary general, and the chairman said he anticipates an announcement in the near future.
During the week, some member countries hosted independent events and gatherings with strategic partners, travel trade stakeholders and members of their diasporas, leveraging their presence in The Big Apple to strengthen those critical relationships.
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