The trinidad Guardian / Chairman of the Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO), Dionisio D’Aguilar, who is also the Bahamas Tourism and Aviation Minister, told the opening ceremony of the annual State of Tourism Industry Conference (SOTIC) in Greneda that the event is occurring “at a trying time for Caribbean tourism.”
“Never in the history of the planning this event have situations, circumstances and conditions in our member destinations, and by extension, the Caribbean, changed so dramatically, so drastically, and so disturbingly in such a short space of time.”
Several Caribbean countries, including Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla as well as St. Martin, the United States Virgin Islands all felt the brunt of Hurricanes Irma, Jose and Maria as they made their way through the Less Antilles.
D’Aguilar said when planning began for SOTIC 2017, the realities were far different.
“None of us ever imagined that two hurricanes, Irma and Maria, would have had such a far-reaching and radical impact on our lives,” he said, expressing “heartfelt condolences to the governments and peoples of the countries impacted by those horrendous storms over the tragic loss of life and property, as well as the destruction of infrastructure”
He said the planning of SOTIC began against the background of the region’s challenge to grow its share of the world tourism market, which has held steady at 2.4 per cent despite record arrivals to the Caribbean.
He said the emphasis was on how to keep pace with the latest trends and developments that make travel and tourism attractive, yet competitive.
“How technologies such as virtual reality, artificial intelligence and 360 influence travel; how we could develop a tourism product and experiences that are so outstanding that visitors take away much more than what they expected and immerse in experiences that they can get nowhere else; how, in essence, we could supercharge the Caribbean brand and make the region more appealing to the new explorer.
However, the monstrous category five hurricanes that so mercilessly battered some of our members last month have added new perspectives to our situation.”
D’Aguilar acknowledged that while the old challenges remain and must be addressed at this conference and well after this gathering is over “we must also address the immediate concerns of recovering and rebuilding after the storms”.
He said the countries that were directly impacted by the tempests are at various stages on the road to recovery, by the road remains a long and tiring one.
“For some, it will be a long while before normality is restored, before they are in a position to welcome visitors again in the numbers they were used to. However, our resilience, commitment and determination will drive us to rebuild better, stronger and more sustainably.” (CMC)