Stewart calls for Caribbean 'refocusing' at show

FAJARDO, Puerto Rico -- Keynote speaker Gordon "Butch" Stewart, chairman, Sandals Resorts International, addressed the Caribbean Hotel Industry Conference in Puerto Rico with a call for a "refocusing of strategy" to ensure that the Caribbean keeps pace with its global competitors.

Stewart called for new legislation to facilitate opportunities for growth in each destination -- allocation of money for marketing and advertising rather than higher salaries.

Stewart cited the Dominican Republic as a destination that has successfully made marketing work, as evidenced by increased tourism numbers.

He also called to diversify products so that consumers have more reasons to visit by offering heritage, history, culture, ecotourism and entertainment, and make better use of technology in terms of distribution outlets and in the face of more sophisticated consumers.

Other news from the show:

  • Ralph Taylor, Caribbean Hotel Association, announced that a CARICOM Tourism Summit will take place in October in Nassau, Bahamas for the first time in 10 years.
  • Taylor also announced that $1.5 million has been raised for the pilot project of the regional marketing program called Great Places in the Caribbean. The project will launch later this year.
  • New president-elect of CHA for the 2002-2004 term is Simon Suarez, executive vice president of development, Coral Hotels & Resorts, Dominican Republic. He assumes office in January.
  • Meanwhile, Jorge Pescara, executive director of Puerto Rico Tourism Co., called for a number of initiatives to drive the tourism product in Puerto Rico.

    Those initiative included: expansion of airlift and number of carriers serving Puerto Rico; improvement of cruise ship piers in San Juan; improved signage throughout the country, targeted marketing of the island's west coast as well as the offshore islands of Vieques and Culebra.

    Pescara said niche target markets include nature, adventure and cultural tourism.

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