Gay Nagle Myers
Gay Nagle Myers

*logoWhat was to have been the 31st Caribbean Tourism Conference in Antigua in October has been canceled, another victim of the economic downturn.

“Holding this conference, in light of today’s global climate, would have been expensive and difficult,” said John Maginley, chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organization, sponsor of the CTC. Maginley also is minister of tourism for Antigua and Barbuda.

“CTC is CTO’s premier event each year and always requires a substantial amount of money to mount,” he said.

The conference is still scheduled for 2010, and Antigua hopes to serve as host country. “We’ll be the first to sign on,” Maginley said.

This marks the second year in a row that the once-annual event has been canceled. The CTC was not held in 2008 because the first annual Caribbean Tourism Summit had taken place three months earlier in Washington; CTO officials said it was difficult to stage two major events that closely mirrored one another in terms of issues, participants and strategies.

The 2009 summit in Washington took place last week, kicking off a week-long schedule of activities centered on the CTO’s Caribbean Week event, designed “to create a platform for the sale of Caribbean vacations to people who are still traveling, and to generate revenue for and excitement about the region,” according to Hugh Riley, the CTO’s interim secretary general.

The agenda included two days in Washington where tourism ministers met with Congressional representatives of the Black Caucus and officials of the departments of state, commerce, energy and homeland security. Issues discussed covered additional pre-clearance facilities in Caribbean destinations served by nonstop flights from the U.S.; expansion of duty-free allowances; and airlift from the U.S. to the Caribbean region.

The event shifted to New York midweek, where events included a marketing conference that examined current and future travel trends. Keynote speaker Philip Wolf, president and CEO of PhoCusWright, reminded his audience that “the primary competition today is not other vacation destinations but more practical purchases such as home improvements and staycations.”

Other Caribbean Week highlights:

  • CTO hopes to fill the secretary-general post “very soon,” according to Maginley. The position has been vacant since last August, following the death of Arley Sobers. The list of candidates has been narrowed to five and includes Hugh Riley, interim head for the past nine months.
  • Plans for the long-talked-about Regional Marketing Fund “will move forward as we seek to come up with financial commitments that are fair to each destination, based on their tourism numbers and their ability to pay,” Maginley said.

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