NEW YORK — Today’s Caribbean travelers want to do more than
sit in the sun and drink rum punch, according to Arnie Weissmann, editor in
chief of Travel Weekly.
Weissmann addressed more than 100 agents at a travel agent
seminar during the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s annual Caribbean Week event
He focused on the opportunities presented by the evolution
of consumers’ desires for new and authentic experiences in the areas of
Caribbean food, culture and nature.
Back in the day, the goal for most visitors was to stay in
as nice a resort as they could afford, and in aggregate, the islands had
properties that could accommodate people at any price point, according to
“People were satisfied with local color rather than authenticity
— a limbo show often seemed to do the trick,” Weissmann said.
Differentiating what each island brings to the table beyond
sun and sand is vital.
“The travel industry at every level must at least offer the
opportunity for authentic experiences to travelers,” he said.
He cited the emergence of Cuba as an example of a
destination whose culture is different, exotic and mysterious.
Half of the agents in the room indicated they had clients
who want to go to Cuba.
“They want the experience of going where others haven’t gone
before,” one agent said.
“It’s not been accessible. People are curious about the
culture and history there,” another agent said.
Weissmann pointed out that these are the same aspects that
other Caribbean islands offer and asked his audience for examples of
experiential travel they could offer up in talks with their clients.
Cooking classes in Martinique, Jamaica’s Meet the People
program, voluntourism opportunities in local schools, church services, fish
fries in Turks & Caicos and Barbados, a tour of a chocolate factory in
Grenada, full moon parties in the British Virgin Islands, mud baths in St.
Lucia, jazz festivals, Carnival celebrations were cited by agents as well as
island tourism representatives in the room.
“Each island has a lot that is unique and sellable. When the
Caribbean is marketed, not a lot of emphasis is put on the distinctiveness of
individual islands,” Weissmann said.
He suggested that regional destination marketing “has to drill down to point out the unique
aspects each island offers to visitors and how it complements its neighbors in