By Gay Nagle Myers
FREEPORT, Bahamas -- With CTC-25 wrapping up today, a lot rides
on what happens next.
Tourism officials and government ministers appear to be on the
same page now and in agreement that Caribbean tourism faces serious
challenges that require immediate action.
How to move from rhetoric to implementation is the challenge,
according to Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, director general of the
Bahamas Ministry of Tourism.
"We are 32 different countries. It is critical that we share
knowledge and tactics with each other. Operating independently
doesn't work and hasn't worked."
The efforts of travel agents were applauded by all sectors,
although the absence of major U.S. carrier representatives at
seminars and panel sessions was noted.
Jeff Jenks, president of Travel Is Fun in Detroit, pointed out
that "travel agents will survive, but many airlines will not."
"We are great talkers, but there is little concrete action to
back up the talk. We must adopt a pro-active approach. The time for
talk is over," said Berthia Parle, president of the St. Lucia Hotel
Association and moderator of a session that dealt with survival
tactics in a threatening environment.
Parle's comment was echoed again and again in general sessions,
press conferences and one-on-one conversations.
Bahamas' prime minister Perry Christie laid out the roadmap for
the re-invention of Caribbean tourism -- the theme of this year's
conference -- in his opening speech.
"Reinvention requires us to stop believing that our tourism job
is finished when the visitor arrives in our country," Christie
Christie challenged Caribbean countries to collaborate together
in public/private sector endeavors.
"No amount of promotions can erase a bad experience had or
reported by a visitor," he said.
Jean Holder, CTO secretary general, said that there already are
signs of communication and collaberation.
Conrad Aleong, CEO of BWIA, will host a regional airline meeting
in Trinidad Nov. 11 to discuss methods of sharing equipment and
cutting costs. Air Jamaica already has indicated it will
The regional marketing campaign, Life Needs the Caribbean, will
resume its cable TV schedule Nov. 6 for several weeks.
Discussions are under way for the second phase of the TV
campaign to begin early in 2003.
While the challenges of air access, sustainable funding, hotel
discounting, safety and security are present, Theo Heyliger,
commissioner of tourism, St. Maarten, said that the threat of war
with Iraq is "our No. 1 short-term problem. The entire Caribbean is
uneasy. If the U.S. goes to war, it will affect the entire travel
A new market push to attract the Afro-American market is a
priority on CTO's list, according to secretary general Jean
"We have not pursued this market as aggressively as we should
have," Holder said.