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30th Edition Of CHTA Caribbean Travel Marketplace Sees 17% Increase In Buyer Companies, 11 Buyers From Russia

Strong Support from Caribbean Governments; New CSHAE Board of Directors

The Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA) recently wrapped up the 30th edition of Caribbean Travel Marketplace, which was held at the Atlantis, Paradise Island Jan 22-24, 2012. The region's premiere marketing event saw a 17% increase (over 2011) in buyer companies with 142 in attendance, 11 of which were from Russia, as well as an increase in buyer delegates which totaled 344 versus 314 in 2011.

Caribbean Travel Marketplace also received strong support from the public sector with the participation of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and ministers of tourism from the following CTO-member countries: Antigua & Barbuda, Anguilla, The Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Grenada, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Martin, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Turks & Caicos Islands, Trinidad & Tobago and the United States Virgin Islands.

"It was good to have the ministers from the public sector supporting the private sector as we as a region stand united in our efforts to remain the leading warm weather destination in the Western hemisphere," said Josef Forstmayr, president of CHTA.

Caribbean Travel Marketplace is the requisite business-to-business marketing event for the Caribbean hotel and tourism industry. At the event, hoteliers, tourism providers and tour operators/wholesalers from around the world scheduled 12,250 appointments over the course of the two-day event up from 11,880 appointments in 2011.

Buyer companies came from Argentina, The Bahamas, Barbados, Brazil, Canada (nine companies), Ecuador, Germany, Italy, Japan, Martinique, Mexico, Netherlands, Peru, Russia (11 companies), Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom (22 companies) and United States (74 companies).

"This marks the 30th consecutive year that CHTA has held the event. It remains the region's most important and largest marketing event and the single most important CHTA benefit for our hotel members," said Forstmayr in his opening remarks to conference delegates. "You may have noted that I referred to Marketplace as Caribbean Travel Marketplace - this is the new name for the event as it better describes the function of Marketplace."

In touting his "Tourism is Key, " Forstmayr stated: "There has to be a strong consensus of our leaders and the public so that travel and tourism will receive the full support it needs as the Caribbean's most vital export industry. It is the fastest way to create jobs, grow the economy and generate income for all. Every citizen needs to understand that, whether or not he or she works directly in the tourism areas, every tourist's dollar brings economic and social benefits to every level of our society."

In his welcome remarks to Caribbean Travel Marketplace delegates, Rt. Hon. Hubert A. Ingraham, prime minister, Commonwealth of The Bahamas, had a positive outlook for tourism to the Caribbean stating, "We begin 2012 with the hope that this year will mark a distinct point of recovery and return to sustained growth for tourism in our region. We believe that early signs of improvement are evident. In The Bahamas, we saw a robust uptick in arrivals since November last. By a number of measures, this past December was particularly good for the 14 major Nassau and Paradise Island hotels."

Forstmayr highlighted airlift challenges that the Caribbean faces stating, "There are no 'drive-ins' in the Caribbean – most of our guests arrive by air. CHTA estimated that in 2010 the Caribbean governments collectively paid $45 million to secure air-lift - only to find that our airlift is still inadequate and way too expensive for our visitors.

"Furthermore intra-Caribbean tourism once represented 13% of the region's tourism; as much as Canada. The combined population of Caribbean countries is 40 million. However, due to the lack of a competitive and truly regional airline, regional tourism has been suffocated by outrageous ticket prices and a cumbersome and ill-conceived network.

"Caribbean nationals cannot travel freely between their countries without being subjected to visas, long immigration lines and other bureaucratic indulgences that stifle any sense of hospitality, the Caribbean's trade-mark.

"We need to establish the very BEST welcome and farewell to all our visitors as well as returning residents within the Caribbean. This must be a "call to action" to all governments and airport operators to focus on this issue. Too often, we hear that long lines, antiquated bureaucracy and surly attitudes are commonplace in our islands ....this is NOT acceptable," concluded Forstmayr.

New Caribbean Society of Hotel Association Executives (CSHAE) Board of Directors
Lisa Hamilton, president, United States Virgin Islands Hotel and Tourism Association, was elected president of CSHAE succeeding Frank Comito, executive vice president, Bahamas Hotel Association, who held the position since 2009. Gilda Gumbs-Samuel, executive director, Anguilla Hotel & Tourism Association, was elected vice president while Neil Forrester, general manager, Antigua Hotels & Tourism Association was re-elected as treasurer and Noorani Azeez, St. Lucia Hotel and Tourism Association, was elected secretary.

Other members elected to the CSHAE Board of Directors include:
  • Frank Comito, executive vice president, Bahamas Hotel Association
  • Pancy Cross, executive director, Grenada Hotel & Tourism Association
  • Clarisa Jimenez, president and CEO, Puerto Rico Hotel & Tourism Association
  • Louanna Chai-Alves, executive director, Trinidad Hotels, Restaurant & Tourism Association
  • Valya Pantophlet, executive director, Sint Maarten Hospitality & Trade Association
  • James Hepple, president & CEO, Aruba Hotel & Tourism Association
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