How do you judge the success of an industry conference? Registration numbers, attendance at speeches, spirited Q and A sessions at workshops and panel discussions, buzz in the buffet lines and at the bars?
If those are the barometers, the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s annual State of the Industry Conference last week in Curacao scored high.
As far as content was concerned: JetBlue announced new lift into Barbados and Curacao; there was talk of new hotel developments on Anguilla, St. Martin and Barbados and port expansion in Curacao and Dominica -- and all that was coupled with significant upticks in regionwide air and cruise arrivals and visitor spend year-to-date. The confab enthusiastically addressed its theme of Growth Through Innovation, calling on Caribbean experts and those from outside the region to tackle the subject of tourism in a highly competitive global world.
“While the Caribbean is not growing as fast as some other regions, like Southeast Asia, we see increases and a lot of potential for future growth,” said Hugh Riley, CTO’s secretary general.
“There are several metrics by which we measure growth such as RevPAR, visitor numbers and visitor spend," he said. "We’re moving in the right direction and must keep that forward momentum going."
Students in the CTO’s Youth Congress session reminded the older audience to be more creative in social media, especially Instagram, and to play up each island’s unique offerings with opportunities to get travelers out of the tourist-bus rut and mix more with locals.
Curacao, as host venue, presented the lighter side of the conference, giving delegates samplings of genuine Dutch treats in terms of hospitality, cuisine and entertainment.
The CTO's State of the Industry Conference next year will be held in Barbados.