At one point in her life, Kelly Fontenelle-Clark, a St. Lucian native, worked as a corporate travel advisor.
"I lasted two months. It wasn't the job for me," she said.
However, what was and still remains her calling is the Caribbean travel and tourism industry.
In years spent with the St. Lucia Tourism Association, Fontenelle-Clark launched initiatives to increase market share for the island, helped develop the St. Lucia Expert (SLEx) program, which grew to more than 20,000 travel advisors in five years, and created the Romance Specialist program, driving awareness of St. Lucia as a wedding and honeymoon destination.
Fontenelle-Clark lives now in Atlanta, and these days she combines her experiences and expertise of the industry along with strong relationships and alliances formed during her years in tourism. In September, she founded the Facebook group Travel Advisors Selling the Caribbean, which she describes as "a grassroots movement of travel professionals who seek opportunities to network, connect, educate and advocate."
It's a one-woman show. Fontenelle-Clark administers the page, which serves as a one-stop source of information vital to advisors, especially during the pandemic.
"I started this members-only group because I knew something was missing in the information pipeline for travel advisors, that one place or site or forum where they could get information, ask questions, network, make connections and share content with one another," Fontenelle-Clark said.
"Right after I launched the group, along came Hurricane Dorian, which pummeled the northern Bahamas, and now there's Covid," she said.
Travel Advisors Selling the Caribbean numbers approximately 5,000 travel advisors, along with some tourist boards, resorts and tour operators. Individuals must request to become a member (there is no fee), and if they qualify as an agent, supplier or media, they are approved.
"There's so much confusion out there right now among travel advisors over health and safety protocols for the islands, required tests for entry, airline schedules that change and flights that cancel, border reopening dates that shift and standards that differ from one destination to another," she said.
"Everything is piecemeal, and information is all over the place on different websites and advisories," she added. "Advisors have had a really hard time since March. Many are really not selling any travel until 2021."
Fontenelle-Clarke's goal is "to keep the Caribbean alive. It's been hard hit by this pandemic, but through the strength, resilience and support of the travel community the region is beginning to reopen its doors to welcome visitors."
In addition to posting Caribbean news and updates, the site serves as a forum where advisors can post questions, get answers and commiserate with one another.
Travel Advisors Selling the Caribbean organized a monthlong online celebration in June to coincide with Caribbean American Heritage Month, showcasing the culture, music, cuisine and attractions of the region.
"We hosted several online events to create greater awareness of the Caribbean's diverse product offerings and to showcase the region's beauty," she said. "We have much to celebrate as we begin to rebuild our tourism product, stronger and even more exciting."
Other recent initiatives on the page included a culinary week with Caribbean chefs, and destination forums spotlighting various islands. A dive week is slated for later this month with information about dive sites and wrecks in the region.