This week promises to be a busy one as delegates gather at Atlantis Paradise Island in Nassau for the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association's annual Caribbean Travel Marketplace.
The event allows Caribbean tourism stakeholders to meet face-to-face with wholesalers from around the world that sell Caribbean vacation travel. Buyers are matched with Caribbean suppliers (hotel companies, land-based tour companies and tourism departments) during a two-day program featuring thousands of scheduled, one-on-one appointments.
Fifteen new buyer companies from 12 countries are participating this year, including companies from Bulgaria, Poland, Ireland, Qatar and Russia.
CHTA officials expect that attendance figures will match or top the 2016 numbers; last year, 107 buyers from 27 countries met with 236 suppliers and negotiated rates and revenues during 11,048 business meetings.
"These appointments set the tone for meetings, groups and vacation packaging for the entire year and drive an incredible amount of business to the region," said Frank Comito, the CHTA's director general and CEO.
"Some of the companies new to Marketplace this year are expanding into the region, an indication of the continued interest in and demand for the Caribbean's diverse product," he said.
Hotelier Karen Whitt, vice president, sales and marketing for Hartling Group, which has three resorts in Turks & Caicos, including the newly opened Shore Club, and the second vice president of the CHTA, explained the importance of Marketplace this way: "The opportunities are abundant, as we connect with travel partners from around the world as well as media and renowned keynote speakers and moderators -- the best and brightest in their fields who share information and best practices to further improve our products, services and enhance sales opportunities."
Because early registrations pointed to a strong representation by Meetings, Incentive, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) buyers as well as interest by hotels serving that market sector, the CHTA has added a MICE component to this year's schedule.
Caribbean hoteliers continue to stress the importance of tourism in U.S.-Caribbean relations, saying it is key to both sides' interests.
CHTA president Karolin Troubetzkoy said that the Caribbean "must ensure that issues of critical socioeconomic importance are firmly addressed with the U.S. Congress and the current administration."