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St. Kitts Site Of 2012 State Of Industry Conference

The much-anticipated CTO State of the Industry Conference unfolded on the beautiful island of St. Kitts from October 10-12 at the Marriott St. Kitts. Host Richard “Ricky” Skerritt, Minister of Tourism and International Transport, St. Kitts and Nevis, set the tone for the conference on Wednesday evening in his opening remarks by challenging attendees to address the pressing issues facing the Caribbean head on.

“The onus is on all of us here to ensure that Caribbean people can better understand why tourism is so important to their livelihoods, and that we can all acquire the skills to better tell the Caribbean story while delivering world class service to our customers,” said Skerritt, outgoing chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO). “We must also protect our tourism industry from over-taxation, while at the same time helping to improve our Governments’ fiscal position. And, we must set aside the petty differences that divide us so we can truly act in a united fashion and firmly position our region in the global market as the most desirable, year-round, warm-weather destination.

Following Skerritt’s remarks, as well as comments from Patricia Martin, permanent secretary, Ministry of Tourism and International Transport, St. Kitts and Nevis, Rosecita Jeffers, CEO, St. Kitts Tourism Authority, and special guest speaker Dr. Donna Christian Christensen, Congresswoman, USVI delegate to Congress, attendees networked at the Welcoming Reception sponsored by the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis.

Despite the rigors of traveling from around the region to arrive in St. Kitts for the conference, a full agenda of board meetings, press briefings, a Caribbean Tourism Youth Congress, and a Meeting of the Council of Tourism Ministers and Commissioners, all of which took place on Wednesday, delegates were nonetheless riveted by the high energy presentation of Dr. Auliana Poon early on Thursday morning. Her enthusiasm and passion when delivering “The Paradigm Shift in Travel and Tourism,” the opening general session keynote address, did not disappoint. No one was dozing during this engaging and provocative presentation. Poon is managing director of Tourism Intelligence International, a leading consulting company that provides innovative solutions for the international travel and tourism industry worldwide.

Other general sessions included “Refining the Role of National Tourist Offices,” What’s Next for American Airlines,” “The Caribbean and British Airways – A Winning Combination,” and “Social vs. Traditional Media – Who is Getting the Message?”

Perhaps the most thought provoking and well received sessions, “The Challenge of Regional Transportation – Where is the Solution?” and “The Right Product, the Right Message, the Right Time,” were both moderated by Bevan Springer. Springer, president of Marketplace Excellence, a full-service, integrated marketing agency committed to providing excellence in the fields of public relations, marketing and media coaching, knew exactly what questions to ask and how to keep the dialogue lively, on point and informative.

The conference was preceded on Monday by a ferry trip to nearby Nevis and a tour of Charleston and the surrounding area, before heading back to St. Kitts later that afternoon. Tuesday was Host Country Media Day, which included visits to some of St. Kitts’ major points of interest, including the imposing Brimstone Hill Fortress & National Park, Caribelle Batik, Christophe Harbour and the Kittitian Hill Development.

One of the most inspiring components of the conference was the Caribbean Tourism Youth Congress, facilitated by CTO director of Human Resources, Bonita Morgan, which took place on Wednesday afternoon at the East Caribbean Central Bank. Questions were posed to young people serving as junior ministers of tourism from across the region, with Jamaican student O'Brian Lewis emerging as the popular winner of the CTO Youth Congress. The professional manner in which the youth responded to the questions and carried themselves during the event left little doubt that the Caribbean tourism industry will continue to have a very promising future as these young scholars move into position of responsibility in the years to come.

Reaching the end of his two-year term, Skerritt passed the gavel on to new chairman of the Council of Ministers, Beverly Nicholson-Doty, Commissioner of Tourism for the United States Virgin Islands. As Nicholson-Doty gets to work she has set new objectives for the organization over the next two years. Foremost among these is the financial stability of the CTO.

“It is very important that we have a financially stable organization that allows us to do the things that we need to do for the region,” Nicholson-Doty said at the closing press conference. She also announced the creation of an Airline Task Force within the next 30 days, the focus of which would be the implementation of the objectives of the San Juan Accord; increasing air capacity to the region; removal of travel restrictions and collaboration with airline partners.

Nicholson-Doty said the CTO would also work to enhance its relationship with the cruise industry with a focused objective of building year-round traffic. The French Caribbean island of Martinique will host the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s State of the Industry Conference in 2013.
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