The curtain rises today on the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association's annual Caribbean Travel Marketplace, which this year is hosted by Puerto Rico at the convention center in San Juan.
There's a lot riding on the conference this year -- not just for the CHTA as it touts its message that bookings for the winter season are strong, that most of the islands impacted by the hurricanes are well on the road to hurricane recovery and that the region is open for business, but for Puerto Rico, which is mustering its commandos to showcase its rebound from the Hurricane Maria.
"It is remarkable what the people of the Puerto Rico Convention Center District Authority, the Puerto Rico Tourism Co., Meet Puerto Rico and the Hotel and Tourism Association have been able to accomplish as they welcome this marquee event to their island," said Frank Comito, the CHTA's CEO and director general.
At the event, he said, "we show the world how the courage, determination and hard work of the Puerto Rican people and the tourism industry has prevailed in view of the challenges they continue to face."
Delegates will find that much of San Juan is lighted, lively, operating, welcoming and open for business.
Those who venture outside the capital city may find a different scenario, as close to half a million customers are still without power in various regions of the island, according to the Army Corps of Engineers.
The CHTA's conference schedule includes an option for delegates to participate in one of Puerto Rico's Rebuild Days at El Yunque Rainforest, which was heavily damaged.
Advance registration for the conference was strong, with thousands of appointments already booked. The event is opening with close to 500 suppliers from 200 companies across 30 countries slated to meet with 200 buyers from 100 companies, 19 of which are new to this conference.
"This speaks not only to the resilience of the Caribbean's bread and butter tourism industry, but also to the fortitude of the Caribbean people," Comito said.
The CHTA views Marketplace as the opportunity to kickstart the region's marketing efforts for 2018 and beyond.
Karolin Troubetzkoy, the CHTA's president, said that Marketplace offers Caribbean hoteliers, destination representatives and industry stakeholders who rely on doing business in the region "the opportunity to learn about the region's diverse offerings, new products, improvements, upgrades and emerging niche markets." In addition, "Marketplace connects people, renews business relationships and establishes new contacts," she said.