In his New Year's message to the travel industry, Hugh Riley, secretary general of the Caribbean Tourism Organization, expressed optimism for 2018, while acknowledging the challenges left by the fallout of the 2017 hurricane season.
"We will recover," he said. "We will put the bricks and mortars back together and the hotels and vegetation all will rise again. Guests planning their trips to those islands this year and beyond should expect to see a product that is rebuilt stronger, better and even more attractive than before."
With tourism being the main economic driver for most of the Caribbean, Riley said the CTO would continue to emphasize the delivery of value and visitor experience. He noted that prior to the storms, during the first half of 2017, the region had experienced "exciting growth in both tourism infrastructure and tourist arrivals." He expects that momentum to return in 2018.
The CTO will focus this year on its two primary markets, the U.S. and Europe, with the U.K., in particular, taking a central role.
"These markets were more robust in 2017 and we trust this will continue this year," Riley said.
His declaration of 2018 being the "Year of Rejuvenation" in the region specifically refers to wellness, but seems to capture the spirit of recovery as well, with several of the storm-impacted islands already up to speed. Others are still on the road to recovery.
"We have declared 2018 to be the Year of Rejuvenation in the Caribbean," Riley said. "With wellness rejuvenation being important aspects of the Caribbean tourism product, we encourage our member countries and private sector partners to plan and organize events around that theme."
The theme will be promoted through social media and traditional media channels.
Options to renew body and spirit are "virtually endless," Riley said, citing beachfront workouts, yoga retreats, wellness resorts and spa treatments as examples.
"The notion of being rejuvenated in the Caribbean is one more reason to let us pamper you this year, which will be a time of rebirth for those who come to share the joy of a Caribbean vacation experience," he said.
Last year was the "Year of Adventure" in the Caribbean, which the CTO linked with the United Nations Year of Sustainable Tourism initiatives.