Caribbean looks to rev recovery with 'Life' ads

By Gay Nagle Myers

NEW YORK -- Caribbean leaders are hopeful that the region's tourism industry will show signs of recovery with the launch of four 30-second TV ads and an online booking site, powered by Expedia.

These are the first components of the $16 million Life Needs the Caribbean campaign, a regional marketing program administered by the Caribbean Hotel Association Charitable Trust, a public/private sector mix of governments, hotels, airlines and credit card companies to promote the Caribbean as a single destination.

The ads air through Nov. 16 on 14 nationwide cable stations and carry a "Call your travel agent" tag line, a toll-free booking number and the Web address at

Expedia plans to launch a travel agent booking link on the site by year's end.

Current paid participants in the marketing program include 18 Caribbean countries, 155 hotels, two airlines and one credit card firm.

Destinations which have not contributed to the regional plan are listed on the site as Caribbean Tourism Organization member countries, but they get no listing in the TV commercials.

Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, director general of the Bahamas' Ministry of Tourism and deputy chairman of CHACT, representing the public sector, said the region should "breathe a lot easier" now that the TV spots and Web site are up and running.

"We must capitalize on the fact that the Caribbean is close, safe and offers a variety of experiences," he said.

Ralph Taylor, chairman and chief executive officer of Almond Resorts in Barbados and chairman of the trust, representing the private sector, said the marketing plan "represents a culmination of efforts designed to build the Caribbean brand to compete in global markets and prevent the further dilution of our revenue share."

The campaign's second phase will launch early next year with additional TV commercials and presentations to consumer and trade groups.

A separate marketing effort in the U.K. and Europe also is planned for 2003.

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