How to use the Internet as a tool to expand business will be the focus of a keynote address delivered by Tracey Weber, Travelocity's COO of North America, at the Caribbean Tourism Organization's 29th annual Caribbean Tourism Conference, set for Oct. 22 to 25 at the Westin and Sheraton Grand Bahama Island Our Lucaya Resort.

The address will set the tone for the conference theme of "Cooperation, Innovation, Rejuvenation: Creating a Brand New Caribbean," said Hugh Riley, the CTO's director of marketing for the Americas.

Weber is responsible for the day-to-day management of flights, hotels, car rentals, cruises and packages. In addition, she leads Travelocity.ca, the sales and customer care team and Site59 (a site that sells last-minute packages). 

Weber's speech will be just one of several addresses and presentations at the conference, which is expected to host more than 600 industry officials representing governments, airlines, cruise lines, travel agents, tour operators, strategic partners and media outlets.

A special session on disaster management and crisis preparedness will focus on how to identify and manage short- and long-term risks, reduce the impact of natural and manmade hazards and devise strategies to mitigate the damage.

"The Caribbean now is open to millions of new eyes and many more potential visitors, due to the increasing ease and lower cost of communications in today's global marketplace," said Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, CTO secretary general.

The scrutiny brings with it the responsibility "to more thoroughly prepare marketing messages and responses to internal and external forces that may impact tourism," Vanderpool-Wallace said.

He warned, however, of looming threats to the industry that could result in "catastrophic financial and economic losses," things such as increased tensions in the Middle East, terrorism, bird flu and hurricanes and other natural disasters.

A special travel agent workshop titled "Selling for Tomorrow: The Secrets of Non-Manipulative Sales" will be chaired by Marc Mancini, professor of Travel at West Los Angeles College, Travel Weekly columnist, industry consultant and creator of travel certification programs for the Cruise Lines International Association, the National Tour Association and AAA.

Mancini plans to offer tips for selling vacations to clients wise to the techniques and strategies of conventional salesmanship. He will offer strategies for "transforming the act of selling into a service that agents do for and with someone to help them achieve success," Riley said.

The theme reflects a new level of cooperation between the CTO and the Caribbean Hotel Association, which began with the signing of a memorandum of cooperation and understanding at last year's conference in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Vanderpool-Wallace said.

Earlier this year, the CTO introduced a new Caribbean logo and soon will unveil a redesigned Web site that will have a booking engine linked to agents who specialize in the Caribbean.

CTO officials will update conference attendees on the Web launch date as well as the ramifications of the proposed implementation date of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, requiring passports of all travelers entering or re-entering the U.S. by air and sea as of Jan. 8. Although the CTO is fighting for a deferment of the passport rule until 2008 or mid-2009, it is telling its members to prepare for the scheduled implementation.

The CTC was last held in the Bahamas in 2002 at the same resort. Again, George Washington University in Washington is the CTC's education partner.

Delegates completing any MasterClasses at the conference earn Continuing Education Units good toward GWU's Event and Tourism Certificate programs, which are offered online or in a classroom.

A trade show is being held in response to requests from suppliers who want to reach tourism officials, agents and the media.

Hours of operation for the trade show on Oct. 22 are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Oct. 23 and 24, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Oct. 25, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.  For details on exhibition space and how to register, visit www.onecaribbean.org or call Sylma Brown-Bramble at (212) 635-9530.

To contact reporter Gay Nagle Myers, send e-mail to [email protected].

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