With the 2017 State of the Tourism Industry Conference (#SOTIC2017), scheduled to official open tonight 10 October at the Radisson Grenada Beach Resort, in #PureGrenada, a number of member countries of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) have been speaking with the media in a specially arranged day of destinations briefings yesterday.
Overall, they spoke in detail about the impact of hurricanes Irma and Maria, at and the recovery process.
Each affected destination recounted its losses, acknowledging the countries that have extended support and also explaining how they are forging ahead with the much costly rebuilding process.
Chief executive officer of the Grenada Tourism Authority (GTA) Patricia Maher highlighted some of the major achievements of the tourism sector in Grenada during the past year, including a significant surge in visitor arrival, because of an increase in the number of cruise calls and flights to the Spice Island.
Ms. Maher also alluded to bright prospects for the Grenada tourism sector, with an increase in room stock, through the construction of the first luxury resort, Silversands, on Grand Anse Beach; the Kimpton Kawana Bay Resort to be constructed in the near future, and the refurbishment of the Spice Island Beach Resort, among other projects, aimed at boosting the tourism product.
Devon Liburd, the director of tourism for Nevis, said the island escaped the worse of the storms and was open for business. Mr. Liburd also indicated that St. Kitts and Nevis had contributed US$1.5 million to some of the affected countries.
In his address, William “Billy” Griffith, the chief executive officer of Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc (BTMI) spoke of the state of the Barbados all-time high cruise arrivals of more than 800, 000 visitors in 2017 and increased development of the hotel product, such as the opening of a new Sandals Royal Hotel in December, 2017, doubling the hotel’s capacity, and the US$200 million-dollar Sam Lord’s Castle Resort – expected to be the biggest hotel project on the island - which will add 400 new rooms in 2020. He noted that air capacity has been growing due to increased demand for the destination.
Rolando Brison, the director of tourism for Dutch Sint Maarten, who joined remotely, said his country lost at least 70 per cent of the hotel inventory, leaving much work to be done to restore the tourism industry there.
He announced that the Princess Juliana International Airport would resume operations today (10 October), and that Royal Caribbean cruise lines is return to the destianation in November, 2017, when the cruise port reopens for cruise arrivals.
Valarie Damaseau, president of the St. Martin Tourist Office, in French St. Martin, who also address the media via Google Hangout, said her country’s focus will be on preparing for the 2018-2019 tourist season.
Ms. Damaseau said roads and beaches had been cleared and cleaned; grocery stores and petrol stations are well provisioned; many bars and restaurants have reopened; electricity has been restored to 88 per cent of the households and a full recovery, including restoration of water and telecommunications, is expected by the end of October 2017.
Joy Jibrilu, director general of the Bahamas ministry of tourism, spoke of the growth in that country’s tourism industry and also some of the challenges being faced. The growth, however, was largely attributed to the massive Baha Mar resort. She also noted an increase in airlift to the Bahamas, independently initiated by carriers.
Karine Mosseau, Martinique’s commissioner of tourism, commenced her country’s presentation by expressing her deep regret at the damage caused by the recent hurricanes, and shared a message of support and togetherness. She also was thankful that Martinique had been spared.
Valerie Vulcan, deputy director of the Martinique Promotion Bureau, noted that Martinique was voted as one of the safest islands in the Caribbean in 2016. She detailed Martinique’s growth as a tourism destination, particularly as a cruise destination, while stating that stayover guest arrivals were increasing, in areas such as the yachting sector.
Cardigan Connor, Anguilla’s parliamentary secretary with responsibility for tourism, sports and culture, noted that up until the passage of Hurricane Irma, on September 6, 2017, Anguilla had recorded strong growth in the tourism sector for the year.
Mr.Connor said the island had been ranked as the top island in the Caribbean by Travel and Leisure Magazine for 2017. He said despite hurricane damage, which could exceed the annual budget of EC $200 million, cleanup across the island was progressing well. Basic utility services are being restored, the airport in Anguilla has reopened, with restored access to the Princess Juliana Airport on neighbouring St. Maarten, as of October 10, 2017, and that many hotel properties were planning to reopen for Christmas.
Hotels that have already reopened have been mainly accommodating hurricane relief workers. However, Anguilla is now officially open for business, with plans for significant development of their current airport facilities in the near future.
British Virgin Islands
Sharon Flax-Brutus, director of tourism for the British Virgin Islands (BVI), also joined remotely and said that pre-Hurricane Irma the BVI was poised to have a record-breaking year.
She said progress was being made in restoring communication, basic utilities and airport services.
Ms. Flax-Brutus said most luxury properties may take up to two years to complete refurbishment, properties like the Nanny Cay - a top resort and marina – will be the first to reopen to guests, with other smaller hotels and places of accommodation soon to follow.
The BVI will not be open for business during the month of October 2017, during which time assessments will be completed; yachts repaired; accommodations, beaches and tourist attractions restored and the integrity of access ports repaired. Like Anguilla, available room stock is currently being utilized by hurricane relief workers. The BVI will begin to welcome guests to the islands on November 1, 2017.
Charles Lindo, director of tourism at the St. Eustatius Tourism Development Foundation, made a brief presentation about his island, which is a short flight from St. Maarten. The island currently has a room stock of approximately 175 rooms, which is expected to increase to 250 by 2018. The island, known for its diving and nature, boasts a tranquil, environment, he said. Lindo said the island is actively seeking suitable investors.
SOTIC, which has as its theme Supercharging the Caribbean Brand: Meeting the Needs of the New Explorers, is the preeminent educational forum for Caribbean hospitality and tourism professionals. This year’s conference is being organised by the CTO in collaboration with the Grenada Tourism Authority and Grenada’s ministry of tourism, and will be held from 10-13 October at the Radisson Grenada Beach Resort. The conference will be preceded by business meetings on 9 and 10 October.
Key conference sessions include Infusing Dynamism in Caribbean Tourism, Who are the New Explorers, Business Models that Rock, Turning Our Waters Into Goldmines - Investing in the Blue Economy, and Spicing Up the Caribbean Brand.
The highly anticipated tourism youth congress and a Stakeholders Speak Out session are also part of the programme.