Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel
Industry Briefs
CTO's State Of The Industry Conference Tackles Tough Regional Issues

A dazzling display of St. Martin culture launched the inaugural State of the Industry Conference organized by the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO). Over 200 delegates and guests, including dignitaries from St. Martin (French) and St. Maarten (Dutch) and the CTO attended the official opening ceremony and were treated to some spectacular performances in folk and creative dance, folk music, calypso and dramatic poetry. Performance by folk groups Imbali Dancers and Capoeira Dancers, An La Ri Ridancing, bottle blowing group, Bottleneck Boys, as well as Imbali Stilt Walkers, thrilled the audience at the Marina Fort Louis, who also witnessed a sparkling steelband performance by Mighty Down. The conference was declared open by President Frantz Gumbs. Also addressing the event were the St. Martin tourism minister, Hon. Franklyn Meyers, CTO Chairman, Hon. Richard "Ricky" Skerritt and the president of the St. Martin Tourist Office, Hon. Ida Zin-Ka-Ieu.

While the opening ceremony was decidedly festive, delegates quickly got down to serious business, exploring a range of topics, everything from airlift issues to discussing strategies to address the ongoing economic crisis facing the region. Addressing the formal opening of the CTO State of the Industry conference, which took place from September 14-17 at the Westin St. Maarten, Chairman Skerritt appealed to industry practitioners in attendance to maintain confidence in the Caribbean's strong appeal despite the global economic situation, adding that the region should not sell itself short. Skerritt said the economic downturn must not deter industry leaders from exploring ways to remain competitive.

The Westin St. Maarten hosted eight events on Friday and Saturday featuring presentations from prominent industry leaders and strategic professionals. Each panel and presentation at the Westin St. Maarten provided countless opportunities for networking in the tourism and travel industries.  Caribbean Tourism Organization’s Hugh Riley, secretary general, said the main focus of the conference was not the economic downturn, but a discussion about positive solutions to help grow tourism to St. Maarten and the rest of the Caribbean.

"The state of the industry is not only about overcoming current challenges, it’s also about identifying opportunities," said Riley. "This conference will allow the industry’s elite professionals to come together and develop strategies on how to increase and improve tourism to the region." Sessions included an exploration of public/private sector partnerships and what must be done to forge successful alliances between the two sectors that was moderated by Minister Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace; a panel discussion by airline leaders including J etBlue’s Chad Meyerson, Air Canada’s Vijay Bahija, Air France/KLM’s Veronique Moulin, and Virgin Atlantic’s Edmond Rose, that pinpointed keys to tourism success; and a keynote address by British Airways chief executive Keith Williams which touched on economics and aviation. Perhaps the most dynamic session of all was entitled Overcoming The Hurdles – Making Intra-Caribbean Travel Work, hosted by veteran journalist Tony Fraser, prominent radio and television host headquartered in Trinidad. And that was just the first day!

The second day’s sessions were just as impressive, including Spotlight!: Influencing the Affluent!, moderated by Secretary General Riley; and the Tourism Youth Congress, hosted by Bonita Morgan, CTO’s Human Resources Director. Prior to the opening reception for all delegates on the evening of September 15 at Marina Fort Louis, there were a round of business meetings on the 14th, and attending journalists participated in the Host Country Media Day program on September 15th, which included visits to Phillipsburg, Marigot, Fort Louis, Grand Case and the Saint-Martin National Natural Reserve, as well as a catamaran voyage to Tintamarre Island for lunch.

Other activities included Press Briefings presented by several attending member nations, as well as a Press Conference, and a Closing Gala with special prizes.