ANSE MARCEL, St. Martin -- Issues as diverse as waste
management, Web sites, winter season bookings, marketing tools and
El Nino dominated the Caribbean Hotel Association's annual Small
Hotels Retreat, held this month at Le Meridien on St. Martin. More
than 130 hoteliers representing properties of 100 rooms or less
from Abaco to Trinidad wrestled with the problems and pitfalls of
small hotels' operations.
CHA officials floated a trial balloon to hoteliers in the form
of a proposed initiative to develop a Caribbean hotel brand based
on a multitiered system using icons to classify hotels. Bill Moore,
CHA's director of product development, said that modern management
practices "must be used to establish standards to assist and
support small properties to compete in the world marketplace."
Moore cautioned that the initiative was purely conceptual at this
point. "This project evolved from brainstorming sessions. It
requires feedback from hoteliers and identification of outside
funding sources before any further developments can take place,"
according to Moore. Hoteliers were in general agreement that a
classification system is needed and pointed out that such programs
in the Bahamas and Jamaica, already in place, might serve as
Miami-based Festa Holidays became the tour operator in April for
CHA's Small Hotels tour program, cosponsored by American Airlines
and American Express. Jacques Abitan, Festa's president, assured
hoteliers at the retreat that the firm's Real Caribbean packages
use "the lowest bulk fares available on American and pay a 12%
More than 250 small hotels on 21 islands are featured in the
programs; 50 more will be added by December. Abitan explained that
hotels must be CHA members, pass an inspection, accept the American
Express card and pay an entry fee of $10 per room per year to join
the Small Hotels program. In addition, the government tourist board
must pay $800 per year per hotel to participate in the program.
Roundtable discussions centered on sustainable tourism, the
Internet, brochure design, staff training and marketing.
Hoteliers cited examples of ecotourism measures already in place
within the Caribbean, such as the installation of 200 solar street
lights in Nassau, light sensors in guest rooms and a
$2-per-person-per-day energy surcharge at certain hotels in the
Bahamas. Footprints Eco Resort, a new nine-room inn on Tobago,
includes a property tour with lunch so that guests can see its
ecotourism measures first-hand .
Carol Kaufman, owner of the 14-room Olde Yard Inn on Virgin
Gorda in the British Virgin Islands, prints her property's
environmental practices on brochures and placards in the rooms "so
our guests can support what we're doing." Barry Benjamin, vice
president of the 16-room Peace & Plenty Beach Inn on Exuma,
said, "If we as hoteliers don't control pollution, soon we will
have nothing to sell." Louise John, manager of the 20-room,
five-cottage Long Bay Hotel on Antigua, said that the Caribbean
needs a regional recycling center. "We have no place except
landfills for our garbage. We are wrecking our islands by not
addressing this problem," John said.
CHA's new Caribbean Action for Sustainable Tourism program
bolsters hotels' eco-efforts through cost-savings programs,
marketing, training seminars and collateral materials.