Caribbean food, drink, music, culture and tourism officials are front and center in New York City this week as the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s annual Caribbean Week events unfold all over the city.

Events began with an interfaith church service in Brooklyn on June 6 and run through the 37th annual Governments of the Caribbean State Ball at the Plaza on June 11.

HughRileyinBrooklynMissing from the normally packed schedule is the Caribbean Fair, an annual event that traditionally attracted a cross-section of the public to talk with vacation experts and destination gurus while sampling the foods and wares of 33 Caribbean countries. The fair fell victim to the global recession.

However, other public events are an after-work urban beach party at the New York Film Academy Café June 9, a Rum ‘n Rhythm celebration at Roseland Ballroom June 10 and chef demonstrations at Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s throughout the week.

Inside the New York Helmsley Hotel, host property for the event, serious discussions were going down as well as travel agent workshops, diaspora discussions and a panel on the meeting and incentives market.

Jamaica’s director of tourism, John Lynch, said the Jamaica team’s presence at Caribbean Week “serves to reassure everyone that Jamaica is open for business and still a leader among Caribbean destination. The safety of our visitors is paramount, and our hotels and attractions tcontinue tocater to our visitors’ needs.”

The government already has launched a $10 million campaign in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. to counteract the recent violence in the Kingston slums. More than 3,000 agents will be brought to Jamaica though September to tour the resort areas, which are far removed from Kingston.

Richard Sealy, tourism minister for Barbados, reported a 26.6% jump in U.S. visitor arrivals from January through April. He cited increased airlift, international sporting events, and new festivals as helping fuel the growth.

Barbados is served by American from Miami and New York, new JetBlue service from New York and increased Delta flights from Atlanta. US Airways will increase its nonstop service from Charlotte this fall.

“Through strategic programs appealing to a wide variety of U.S. travelers, coupled with our direct airlift, we have proven that Barbados has more to share than sun, sand and sea. We have taken many steps to increase the accessibility and lure of our island nation,” Sealy said.

Barbados this year has hosted an international cricket competition, the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s 11th annual Sustainable Conference, an island-wide jazz festival and a charity polo event with royalty from England and Lesotho.
Coming up is the Food & Wine festival in November.

Allen Chastanet, St. Lucia’s minister of tourism and civil aviation, also reported solid growth from the U.S. -- 14.3% in the first quarter. The destination “is poised for continued double digit growth through August,” according to Chastanet.

Airlift from the U.S. has increased in 2010 to 20,000 seats a month, up from 9,000.

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