SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic -- The 23rd annual Caribbean Tourism Conference held here late last month drew about 800 delegates, including 300 U.S. travel agents. Workshops and general sessions revolved around the conference theme of millennium strategies for Caribbean tourism.

CTC-24 is scheduled for mid-October next year, a departure from the regular mid-September date due to a conflict with the annual ASTA congress in Seville, Spain. The venue next year is Barbados, where, it is hoped, the opening speeches will be given in English.

At this year's conference, the welcome address by Felix Jimenez, minister of tourism for the Dominican Republic, and the opening speech by Jaime David Fernandez, vice president, were delivered in Spanish with no translations supplied then or later.

Keynote speaker Chris Mottershead, managing director of Airtours Holidays in the U.K., traced the growth of Caribbean tourism and the changes in the industry in the past 30 years. "Customer expectations and wants must be met and delivered," Mottershead said.

"Competition is intense, and our customers have many other travel options available." Tourists expect such basics as decent roads, drinkable water, regular garbage collection and airports with modern facilities.

The U.K. speaker raised more than a few eyebrows when he decried the increase of scheduled air services from the U.K. to the Caribbean over charter operations. He claimed that the increase made it unprofitable for his firm to do (charter) business in the region.

Caribbean tourism officials have long lobbied for additional scheduled services to the region, particularly from the U.S. Scheduled airlift this winter season to the Caribbean reflects a substantial increase over last year because several more carriers are in the lineup with new flights or expanded schedules.

Rebutting Mottershead's remarks, Air Jamaica's Allen M. Chastanet, vice president of marketing and sales, said that Air Jamaica "will not be swayed by charter company Airtours' threat to reduce or cancel service to Caribbean destinations that have encouraged additional growth from scheduled carriers."

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