Wish You Were Here
Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel
Issue: September/October 2013
Adfrican-American Guide To Meetings, Incentives And Traveling In The Caribbean
By: Patricia Ann Jordan


There lies a strong connection and affinity between African-Americans and Caribbean peoples.  Both group's ancestries are from the Motherland, Africa.  We have that kinship ever imbedded in our souls.  Many meeting groups because of this and other factors, which make the Caribbean attractive for hosting meetings, hail it as a prime meetings destination. 

In fact, Caribbean destinations such as the Bahamas are holding out welcome hands to their African-American Brothers and sisters, not only to host their meeting groups, but to be their tourism destination, as well.

The Bahamas prides itself on offering several site visits each year, so meeting planners can take a personal look at what it they offer.  To take advantage of this, planners can contact a Bahamas group sales manager.

In addition to group sales managers, these islands offer a variety of venues ranging from historical forts to private islands. Always available are professional destination management companies (DMCs), to assist with meeting planning needs.

There are 11 island destinations from which to choose to accommodate your incentive and meeting group travel.

In Barbados, the meetings and incentive market continues to offer tremendous opportunity and the island strives to strategically continue to pursue this niche mindful that all stakeholders - including airlines, accommodation suppliers, conference services providers, destination management companies, attractions and the varied support services - stand to benefit in a most orchestrated manner. 

Ideal for small to medium sized groups of up to 1,200 delegates, the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre offers a shuttle service to and from hotels.  Additionally, Barbados enjoys the reputation of possessing a high quality infrastructure, excellent telecommunications and a high safety index which remain integral to successful group planning.

Currency is on par with the U.S. dollar and both are accepted interchangeably throughout Barbados. There are over 80 flights daily from North American, Canadian and European gateways. It is easy to move your international, national or regional group business.

These and other factors continue to make Barbados an attractive option for meetings and incentives as evidenced by the successful staging of a number of international conferences in recent months.  Vice-President, Marketing, USA, Campbell Rudder, indicated that the destination has benefited tremendously from these events and looks forward to sustained interest and excitement

Beverly Nicholson-Doty, commissioner, Department of Tourism, USVI, and new chair of the Caribbean Tourism Organization's Council of Ministers, emphasized "We in the US Virgin Islands see a strong and sustained future with the meetings and incentives market. Our room inventory is perfect for many meetings, corporate retreats, and targeted and specialized conferences. So, we focus on more manageable meetings and conferences and concentrate on providing top quality services and facilities. We have hosted FAM trips for meeting planners, which have resulted in strong business for the USVI. One of the things we would like to impress on the African-American market is the fact we are very well attuned to their needs and the US Virgin Islands is very welcoming of those communities with which we have a strong cultural affinity.

Easy to get to because U.S. citizens don't require passports to enter, this territory is part of the United States and the islands are an ideal domestic location to host meetings of any size.

The island trio offers ideal settings for smaller break-out sessions to enhance productivity and to create inspiration for groups and productive meetings.   Whether planning for a small group of CEOs in St. John or an incentive retreat with spouses and children in tow in St. Thomas or St. Croix, knowledgeable meeting managers and savvy destination management companies (DMCs) can supply the latest technology and prepare creative itineraries in an affordable, safe and beautiful Caribbean island destination.

Venues range from high attention service luxury resorts to smaller, intimate, hideaways, all with easy access to off-site locations for hosting functions. The USVI provides a professional, yet, low-stress environment for business.

It's no secret, location is everything and planners looking for an unparalleled destination will find plenty of choices in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The trio of breathtaking beauties - St. Croix, St. John, and St. Thomas - offer the perfect setting to enhance your meeting's productivity and create just the right inspiration your group will need. Visit the Explore Our Islands section on their website, to learn more.

Each of the islands is unique in its offerings and cultural amenities. Whether planning for a group of CEOs or an incentive retreat with spouses and children in tow, knowledgeable meeting managers and enthusiastic destination management companies (DMCs) are available to supply the latest technology and prepare creative itineraries. Venues range from impressive luxury resorts to smaller intimate locations, and provide a professional atmosphere for business with an extensive list of off-site locations for hosting functions.

Touch down with nonstop service on most of the major carriers from a variety of U.S. gateways. Favorable tax incentives and global shipping options enhance the appeal of the islands.

With business out of the way, it's time to indulge in the pleasures of the destination, like the 18-hole championship golf courses on St. Croix and St. Thomas. Adventurous colleagues can experience the thrill of yacht racing, hop aboard a wave runner, dive unfathomable depths, swim with the Caribbean's only sea lions or feel the warm trade winds on horseback. For more stress-free options, indulge in signature spa treatments, lounge on the deck of a catamaran or revel in the unmistakable splendor of our awesome beaches. Remember to carve out some time for a shopping excursion. With a $1,600 duty-free allowance and discounts of 20-40% on coveted items, you can take home something for everyone on your gift list.

As day transitions into night, the cuisines of the world take center stage with the islands' culinary masters preparing gastronomic feasts. Reserve a table or allow your DMC to arrange a dine-around. Jazz, calypso, R&B and melodic Quelbe sounds can be found in a variety of locations. Performing arts centers feature classical, theatrical and symphonic productions during the year.

When it comes to meeting and event planning, location matters.  Jamaica has always done well with the Incentive market, but now that The Montego Bay Convention Centre is open, it gives the opportunity to bring in bigger conferences from around the world.

The number one challenge is to convince meeting planners that Jamaica is not just a tourist attraction but is also geared up to hold major conferences and meetings which will generate more hotel rooms.  Sometimes an organization worries it would lose delegates to the various attractions by moving the conference to Montego Bay.

One solution is to better educate the different organizations as to what Jamaica has to offer, with the best solution being to contact the Jamaica Tourist Board whenever you are planning to host an event in Montego Bay.  It's important that the conference planner works in conjunction with the tourism body to really find out what is compelling about that city, and get information regarding the rules and regulations with regards to customs and immigration.  The Montego Bay Convention Centre will work with the Jamaica Tourist Board to ensure that the meeting planner is well versed as to what Jamaica has to offer.     

With respect to meeting location, hotels, attractions and restaurants, Jamaica with its diverse terrain is a welcome delight for meeting groups, with lush mountains, cascading waterfalls and centuries old plantations rich with history and intrigue.     Providing a satisfying meetings experience is of paramount importance to all involved in Jamaica's tourism industry.  "Tourism is Jamaica's number one industry.   We are not only committed to the industry, but also to ensuring the best possible environment for our guests, whether here for business or pleasure," says Dittie Guise, general manager, SMG/Montego Bay Convention Centre.

    

The investment by such prestigious overseas tourism companies as the Hilton Hotel chain, Iberostar, RIU, Ritz Carlton Hotel chain, among others, is testament to the effectiveness of Jamaica officials work to enrich the tourism and meetings product.  They also ensure a pleasant experience for guests and at the same time demonstrate a confidence in the destination.

Jamaica is proven to be one of the most cost effective destinations in the world, based on the variety of hotels and accommodations offered as well as the flight accessibility and availability.

Remember, your next meeting can be held in the Caribbean, which welcomes with open arms its African-American brothers and sisters.  Let's not forget each other and forge a bond between us, which can stand for many years to come. 

For more information:

US Virgin Islands:    www.visitusvi.com or www.virgin-islands-hotels.com

Barbados: www.visitbarbados.org/Meetings

Jamaica : www.visitjamaica.com

Bahamas: www.bahamas.com

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