Gay Nagle Myers
Gay Nagle Myers

Caribbean tourism officials unveiled details of the long talked-about regional marketing plan during the annual Caribbean Week in New York.

Tagged "Rhythm Never Stops," the campaign's first phase will launch at the end of June. And the initiative is long overdue, according to Hugh Riley, secretary general of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO).

"Our competitors are way ahead of us," Riley said, citing as examples the successful tourism campaigns of Brand USA, with an annual budget of $164 million, and Australia, at $122 million.

"The Caribbean needs the impact of a successful marketing campaign, one that will benefit the entire region and communicate that the entire region is open for business," he said.

"Rhythm Never Stops" represents a public-private partnership between the CTO and the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA). The CTO has already secured funding commitments from St. Lucia, the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, Grenada, Trinidad & Tobago, Martinique and Jamaica toward an initial $400,000 budget goal.

The hope is to extend the list of commitments and increase the budget in order to market across a number of platforms.

"We will continue to pursue a funding mechanism for a sustained marketing program, which is critical to our efforts to maintain and grow market share," Riley said.

Frank Comito, CEO and director general of the CHTA, said that a number of private sector companies have committed to matching destination-sourced funding on a dollar-for-dollar basis, including Hilton, Marriott, MasterCard, other hotel brands and several airlines.

"This is a two-phased program, starting with the summer launch including digital and social media messaging, followed by a program of additional messaging from mid-fall to winter," Comito said.

A marketing MOU for St. Maarten/Martin

Another milestone partnership was announced during Caribbean Week: Dutch St. Maarten and French St. Martin signed an agreement to jointly market and promote tourism to the shared island, according to Cornelius de Weever, interim director of tourism and justice for St. Maarten, and Valerie Damaseau, first vice president for French St. Martin.

"All stakeholders will be working together," Damaseau said. "This is a one-island agreement for tourism and signifies a unified approach to a tourism master plan."

De Weever said that the memorandum of understanding "will reduce confusion for our visitors coming to the island." And he added: "As we rebuild and recover from the hurricanes, we will do it right, more sustainably and will emerge stronger than ever."

Steps to be followed include establishing a common budget and a joint collaboration on financing initiatives with public and private sector contributions. The partnership also promises to "coordinate a rejuvenation" of the tourism product on the island, which was badly hit by the hurricanes last fall.

"To move forward we have to come together under the theme of  One Island, One People, One Destiny," Damaseau said. 

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