FAJARDO, Puerto Rico -- Diversity, unity and ingenuity will be the
driving forces of the two-year term of Simon Suarez, new head of
the Caribbean Hotel Association.
Suarez, executive vice president of Coral Hotels & Resorts
in the Dominican Republic, took over the reins from Ralph Taylor,
immediate past president of CHA and chairman of Almond Resorts in
Barbados, at the recent Caribbean Hotel Industry Conference
Suarez is the first Spanish-speaking president of CHA, and he
delivered his inaugural address in three languages (Spanish, French
He called for unity within the Caribbean to lead advances in the
tourism industry and for ingenuity to help meet future
"Without ingenuity, we are routine, and routine without
ingenuity will make us fall," Suarez said. He urged hoteliers and
tourism officials to "think outside the box" and to re-examine
traditional methods of problem-solving.
The new CHA head also urged development of a private-sector-led
initiative to establish a capital fund for financing the Caribbean
He said he seeks to create partnerships with the cruise industry
in marketing and environmental standards, and he challenged
delegates to channel the resources of chain hotels to improve the
Bertia Parle, newly elected CHA
1st vice-president for the 2002-2004 term, called on Caribbean
countries "to come together rather than compete against one
another" to win new markets for the region.
Parle, owner of Bay Gardens Hotel in St. Lucia, said that
although business is "rebounding now following Sept. 11, we were
caught with our pants down."
In other conference news:
• The first component of the $16 million regional public-private
sector marketing effort, "Life Needs the Caribbean," gets off the
ground July 31, to be followed later this fall and winter on
additional U.S. television stations and in the U.K. and in
The eight-week, $4.6 million cable TV campaign on 14 U.S.
stations will carry the tag line "Ask your travel agent," a
toll-free phone number and a Web site booking address.
Expedia is field-testing a private booking engine that will
enable agents to book Caribbean packages directly from the Web site
link by the end of the year.
The four commercials, which were shot in the Bahamas, Dominica
and New York, feature images of the Caribbean, including a diver, a
waterfall and a small boat in the water.
Soundtracks from subways and freeways juxtapose the hustle and
bustle of metropolitan life with the tranquility and quiet of the
• Speaking at an industry panel that examined the "Life Needs
the Caribbean" campaign, Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, director
general of the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, told CHIC delegates
that sustaining the marketing effort is critical to the campaign's
He urged hotels and governments who had not already committed
funds to the marketing campaign to do so. "You have to pay to
play," Vanderpool-Wallace said.
• The future of Caribbean tourism and the new face of the North
American marketplace -- altered by the economy, the aftermath of
Sept. 11 and new consumer behavior -- also were hot topics.
According to a study conducted by Yesawich, Pepperdine and
Brown, the biggest growth markets in the tourism industry today are
travel with children and niche markets, such as ecotourism,
weddings, dive, minorities, reunions, golf and handicapped
Peter Yesawich, chief executive officer of YPB, said price and
value drive today's consumers' travel decisions, as well. In a
flurry of statistics, Yesawich reported that 53% of today's
consumers use the Web to plan or purchase travel and that 59% plan
to vacation close to home this year.
• Bill Silvermintz, vice president of marketing for the Americas
for the Barbados Tourism Authority, discussed challenges facing
Visitor numbers for Barbados have improved on a month-to-month
basis since last fall's steep downturns. "Our February and March
figures were up over the same months last year," Silvermintz said.
"We were down in April, but up again in May and June."
To spur the marketplace and travel agent bookings, the BTA
recently introduced its Best of Barbados seven-night summer
promotion, offered by 30 U.S. wholesalers at 45 hotels through Dec.
14. The rate, which starts at $585 per person, includes discounted
air, hotel accommodations with breakfast and a free day's use of a
car when three days are paid.
A $2.3 million ad campaign, which ran through June and picks up
again in mid-August to mid-October in key Northeast and Florida
markets, will keep Barbados "top of mind," Silvermintz said.
Group presents annual awards
FAJARDO, Puerto Rico -- Accolades and awards were handed out to
industry hoteliers on all levels during the Caribbean Hotel
Allen Chastanet, Air Jamaica's vice president of marketing and
sales, was named Allied Member of the Year. Chastanet is one of the
architects of the "Life Needs the Caribbean" regional marketing
initiative and head of CHA's marketing committee.
Named by CHA as Hotelier of the Year was Ewald Biemans of Bucuti
Beach Resort in Aruba. Employee of the Year was Harold Shepherd of
Sandpiper Hotel in Barbados, and Alfredo Camacho of the
Ritz-Carlton San Juan Hotel & Casino took home the Supervisor
of the Year award.
Others who received accolades included St. Vincent's Dawn Smith,
Small Hotel Association's Executive of the Year, and Camille
Needham of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourism Association, who was
awarded honors for larger associations.