Caribbean conference focuses on marketing spas and health


GRAND CAYMAN, Cayman Islands -- Global warming, health and wellness tourism, developing a spa business and protecting the fragile coral reef system in the Caribbean were prevalent topics at the Caribbean Conference on Sustainable Tourism Development here.

More than 300 delegates and government tourism officials from the region attended the annual event last week, which was organized by the Caribbean Tourism Organization in collaboration with the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism and the Caribbean Hotel Association.

Among the topics discussed was the idea of developing the Caribbean region as a wellness center aimed at tourists seeking more than just a suntan. 

Steve Andrew, CEO of Soothing Touch Da Spa in Barbados and a board member of the Caribbean Spa and Wellness Association, advocated marketing the Caribbean's abundance of indigenous products and healing techniques.

As an example, he said, "Europeans do not want to travel to the Caribbean for a Swedish massage. We should brand a unique Caribbean treatment and call it the Irie Massage."

Eric Light, president of the International Medical Spa Association, echoed that sentiment. 

"The sun-and-sea vacation is so well-branded that it is difficult to get people to think beyond the beach," Light said. "To change that may take three to five years, with success based on marketing strategies that go beyond just heads on beds."

Delegates also discussed the potential for developing community-driven tourism, such as the Grand Cayman Go East Initiative, which promotes tourism on the island's less-crowded east coast.

Charles Clifford, the Cayman Islands' minister of tourism, environment, investment and commerce, called for a balance between environmental, economic and sociocultural aspects of tourism development.

"Clearly, the future of the Cayman Islands tourism industry does not lie in mass tourism," Clifford said.

As an example, he cited the destination's new comprehensive customer service program, which is in the process of being implemented.

"This program will deliver high-quality service by enhancing the skills of frontline staff," Clifford said. "This will assist us in raising customer service from good to great."

The Cayman Islands, keenly aware of its status as a prime dive destination, passed amendments to its marine conservation law to regulate interactions between marine life and divers. The amendments take effect in June.

Recently enacted restrictions at the Sandbar and Stingray City dive locations include their designation as Wildlife Interaction Zones, which prohibits dive boats from anchoring in water that is less than four feet deep or closer than 20 feet to any reef.

Another hot topic at the conference was the issue of climate change, which Clifford described as "widely recognized as one of the most serious environmental issues facing the world."   

He called on the international community to increase efforts to tackle the problem.

"No one nation can solve this crisis on its own," Clifford said. "But each can begin by acknowledging the challenges and opportunities ahead for government, private enterprise and civic society in meeting these obligations."

To contact the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail to [email protected].


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