Industry conferences offer opportunities to network, hobnob, interview, report and, if time permits, tour new properties or the destination itself.
There was time for nearly all of that at the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association's (CHTA) recent Marketplace held at Atlantis Paradise Island.
Hoteliers were generally optimistic going forward, despite occupancy rates and ADRs that had failed to meet budget targets in 2016 for some of them.
Most reported strong bookings going forward now that the Zika threat has diminished, the dollar is strong, airlift has increased, regulations in regard to leveling the playing field with the sharing economy will be put in place and both the CHTA and the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) are committed to advancing a regional tourism strategy. The Trump impact, however, looms as the unknown.
In walking the trade show floor lined with suppliers in their colorful booths awaiting buyers to talk business and bookings, I saw and spoke with many familiar faces.
I also met Andrew Michelin for the first time. As I walked down one of the aisles, he called out my name and came from behind his table to meet me, having seen my nametag.
Michelin is the director of two boutique, couples-only all-inclusives on Antigua that I had to admit I knew nothing about. The Keyonna Beach Hotel and Cocos Hotel are both a bit south of St. John's.
We spoke for 20 minutes, and what I took away from that was Michelin believes strongly in the value of travel agents and guest service and sees a big demand for smaller hotels. His two properties total less than 60 rooms.
On the flip side of small, there's Baha Mar, across the bridge in Nassau. I toured parts of that complex, which has set a soft opening date of April 21 for 200 of the 1,800 rooms in the Grand Hyatt, centerpiece and flagship of the four-hotel complex.
I was eager to check out the Warwick Paradise Island, the Bahamas' newest adults-only, all-inclusive property, which features 245 rooms and suites overlooking Nassau's harbor.
I stood on the Warwick's 10,000-square-foot Sea Terrace, inspected its harborview rooms, lunched al fresco, ducked into the Amber Spa and watched a guest reel in a small snapper from the hotel's fishing dock.
The chef later prepared it for the guest's dinner.
What I did not have time for was Nassau itself, but that's another time, another trip. This conference alone provided plenty of fodder and news.