Caribbean Marketplace 2011 attendance rebounds

CHTA President Josef Forstmayr

MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica – The Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA) Caribbean Marketplace 2011 had the third largest attendance over the past decade with 1,518 delegates as compared to 1,362 in 2010 and an increase in the number of crucial buyer companies by 22% and buyer delegates by 15%, up from 101 and 268 respectively in 2010.  The number of scheduled appointments totaled 11,880 over the two-day event as compared to 11,774 in 2010.

Attendees felt that the 22% increasein the wholesaler buyer companies was an indication that interest in vacations to the Caribbean was returning and Marketplace 2011 would result in an increase in packages, promotions and ultimately bookings to the region.

The overall mood of delegates at Caribbean Marketplace 2011 was high from the very start as delegates listened to CHTA President Josef Forstmayr remind everyone: “All of us have felt the impact of the economic crisis over the past two years, but we have much reason to be optimistic. Right now at Marketplace 2011, we have more buyers that have come to meet with hotels and tourist offices than last year, an indication that business is coming back.”

He also urged all delegates to “recognize that tourism is the key to economic development in the Caribbean.  Tourism and its ability to compete globally has in all but a few Caribbean nations become the essential provider of employment and national income; and by extension a principal provider of taxes that pay for voters’ expectations of everything from education to health care to roads.

“This is why CHTA launched the Tourism Is Key advocacy campaign underlining the importance of travel and tourism to our Caribbean economies.

“The campaign targets a broad audience from Caribbean Heads of State across the region to Caribbean citizens in every destination.

“We all need to understand that whether or not anyone works directly in the tourism areas, every tourist dollar brings economic and social benefits to every level of our society.

“I urge all of you here today to assist us in our lobbying efforts and to help us to achieve four main goals:

“1. Strong advocacy of the tourism industry with government and the general public.

“2. Faster regional integration and the removal of barriers such as visas, excessive entry formalities and bureaucracy.  This will also enable Caribbean nationals to fuel the tourism growth in neighboring destinations.

“3. Better and more affordable airline access with less regulation throughout the region. We know that this is something you all want because it would make your jobs easier to package, promote and sell our island destinations.

“4. The creation and launch of a sustainable marketing and promotion fund for the Caribbean. This is more than a decade overdue and we cannot wait any longer.

Forstmayr was followed by an impassioned speech from Prime Minister of Jamaica Bruce Golding, who urged the Caribbean region “to continue its united action to fight the decision of the United Kingdom to impose the Air Passenger Duty (APD) tax.”  He said “the region was united in its position that this tax is manifestly unjust to the countries of the Caribbean region.”

Varying APD rates are dictated by the classification of worldwide destinations by the UK government, with passengers taking trips to the Caribbean being particularly badly hit.

Mr. Golding said, “several leaders from the region have impressed upon the British government that the tax is not fair and that it needs to be reviewed.”

Mr. Golding said that in handing over the chairmanship of CARICOM to Grenada’s Prime Minister Tillman Thomas, he provided a full brief on all the activities including a detailed update on the efforts that have been made to adjust this increase and he is confident that CARICOM will continue to make representation to the British government.

“Going to London and pleading are not the only options we have,” Mr. Golding noted.  He said he had “consulted widely and there are other options that the Caribbean may have to consider in tackling something that is not just unfair and unjust but is in conflict with established global rules of tourism.”

He noted that while he could not speak for other Caribbean countries on the matter and while it would be premature to speak on the position that the Government of Jamaica will take, “there is no option that is off the table.  We are going to secure justice in this matter one way or the other,” Mr. Golding added.

Prior to the opening of Caribbean Marketplace 2011, CHTA held vital committee and Board of Directors meetings to discuss crucial issues facing the hospitality and tourism industry in the region and agreed to create a new plan of action for a regional marketing campaign in conjunction with the Caribbean Tourism Organization.  There were also meetings with the reconstituted Chain Hotels Forum to secure the involvement of prominent worldwide hotel companies in the region.

Next year, Caribbean Marketplace 2012 will take place Jan. 22 – 24, 2012 at the Atlantis, Paradise Island in The Bahamas.

About The Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association

The Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA) facilitates the full potential of the Caribbean hotel and tourism industry by serving members’ needs and building partnerships in a socially responsible and sustainable manner.  CHTA was founded in 1962; it is the voice of the Caribbean hospitality industry for the development of the region in the highly competitive and sophisticated environment of international tourism. Today, tourism is widely recognized as a pivotal industry in the economy of the region – and CHTA functions as the common denominator for this industry in a region of diverse nationalities, languages and styles, identifying mutual problems and marshalling the resources of the active and allied members to devise solutions. CHTA represents all facets of the hospitality industry with more than 725 member hotels and 525 allied members.

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