Saturday, October 13, 2012

CTO Sizzles in St. Kitts

State of the Industry

Selling the Caribbean

Melanie Reffes

St. Kitts 

With the theme, “Developing a Winning Tourism Strategy”, State of the Industry 2012 was organized by the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO)   in collaboration with the St. Kitts Ministry of Tourism and the St. Kitts Tourism Authority.  Focusing on the region’s tourism business, the conference was held at the St. Kitts Marriott Resort in October and attracted the industry’s creative thinkers for three days of stimulating discussions and spirited debates.  We in this cluster of small populations are bold enough to come together as One Caribbean, enlist some of this industry’s sharpest minds, elect leaders, thrash out ideas and mold them into actions that allow us to win in this environment, “said Hugh Riley, secretary general, CTO.

St. Kitts Marriott Resort  ( credit: Marriott ) 
Hugh Riley, secretary general, CTO  ( credit: B. Cancellare/CTO) 

Addressing delegates during the opening ceremony, outgoing CTO Chairman, Senator Ricky Skerritt noted “with the increase in airfares to the Caribbean, consumers who are paying more to get to our region expect more from our destination when they arrive.  This heightened demand by travel consumers for value dictates that we must provide them with the best possible return on expenditure.   “

Taking aim at crucial issues that drive the Caribbean`s tourism industry, conference sessions included the changing face of world travel, emerging markets  ,  intra-regional transportation and  airlift from the feeder markets in North America. We must assemble all the creativity, discipline and collective resources we have, and use them wisely for the good of this region, ´“added Hugh Riley, secretary general, CTO,  “ it is a commitment to the vision that together as one region, we will be the most desirable, year-round warm weather destination by 2017.” 

The Front Page

The USVI is now chair of the CTO with Commissioner of Tourism Beverly Nicholson-Doty’s election as chairperson for the next two years. "We must continue to plan strategically and act collectively across the public and private sectors to ensure the continued dynamism and strengthened resilience of our Caribbean tourism product,” she said. She added that 'without participation of the CTO member governments and members of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA), prospects for sustainability are not looking good, we have to keep our region competitive or face dire consequences, including loss of market share and diminishing returns."

Outgoing CTO chairman Senator Ricky Skerritt and newly-elected Chairman  USVI  Commissioner of Tourism, Beverly  Nicholson-Doty  ( credit: B. Cancellare/CTO) 

Flying to the region for more than thirty years, American Airlines is a major player in the Caribbean although these days fraught with economic challenges which include the cancellation of flights from San Juan effective March 2013. “The imminent pull-out of American Eagle from the region should not be viewed as a weakening of the commitment of American Airlines to the Caribbean, “said Art Torno, vice president, Mexico, Caribbean and Latin America. “We are in discussions at present with several other carriers to fill the void that will be left by Eagle’s departure from the Caribbean.”  The ‘other carriers ‘were not named.

Island Buzz

Jamaican student O’Brian Lewis was the jubilant winner at the Tourism Youth Congress. A student of Oberlin High School in Kingston, the aspiring tourism minister recommended a museum in Jamaica be built to honour the country’s sporting heroes. “Imagine entering a black green building, where, at the entrance, you are greeted by cool reggae music,  to the right, you see Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce,  to your left, you find cricketers Courtney Walsh or Chris Gayle, “ he smiled.

O'Brian Lewis accepting his award from Jacqueline Johnson  ( credit:  B. Cancellare/CTO) 
Junior Ministers ( credit: B. Cancellare/CTO)
As of November 1, travelers to Antigua will no longer  pay a departure tax as they leave the island.  Increased airport taxes will be rolled into the price of an airline ticket. According to Colin James, CEO , Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority, the additional taxes will be put toward construction of the new airport expected to open in 2014, “V.C. Bird Airport is thirty years old and has long outgrown its ability to handle large numbers of passengers , " he said, " the new airport will feature additional ticket counters, jet bridges and a first-class lounge.”  Also new, 200-room beachfront Nonsuch Bay is already attracting water sports fans that come for kite boarding and kite surfing. An upscale collection of seaside cottages, villas and apartments, the resort also has a Sailing Academy.  

Antigua Beach ( credit: M. Reffes ) 
In Grenada,  Dr. George Vincent, tourism minister,  noted ‘we are trying to put tourism back on stream during these difficult times’ adding that Sandals may be opening a resort in December where LaSource is now. Due to financial difficulties, 100-room LaSource Grenada has issued a stop-sell on all bookings and will close on October 15. The property on Pink Gin Beach was managed by Elite Island Resorts.  “We are very excited about a possible sale to Sandals, “he said, “it will be our flagship brand and the largest resort on the island.”  The first Nutmeg Festival will take place November 1 with culinary exhibits and tastings. 
 On November 2 – 3, Grenada Rum & Beer Festival is an island-wide treat for foodies. 
American Airlines will add a 4th flight from Miami on November 16 and  Delta will start direct nonstop from New York’s JFK in December.

Dr. George Vincent, minister tourism, Grenada and our  Caribbean editor , Melanie Reffes
  ( credit: Cathy Preece ) 

In Turks and Caicos, an application has been made for a Hilton Convention Center although it has been met with ‘mixed reaction’ by islanders.  “The size and scope of the complex is of concern to locals despite it would be the first convention center on the island, “said Brian Been, senior product development office, tourism board, Turks and Caicos.

Tarmac Ready

American Airlines will add two non-stop flights from Miami to St. Kitts beginning on November 16 just ahead of the peak winter travel season.  The flights will depart on Fridays and Sundays, for connections from the North American  feeder markets. The southbound  will depart Miami (MIA) at 4:45 p.m. and arrive into St. Kitts’ Robert L. Bradshaw International Airport (SKB) at 8:35 p.m.   The northbound  will depart St. Kitts at 8:40 a.m. arriving in Miami at 11:05 a.m. on  Saturday and Monday.  “These flights will meet the growth in demand that we anticipate in 2013 and are ideally timed for moving honeymoon and romance travelers as well as meeting and incentive groups, presenting us with more opportunity to build upon these key niche North American market, “ said Senator Ricky Skerritt, minister tourism.

Caribbean coast along the southeastern peninsula ( credit|: SKB Tourism ) 

Royal St. Kitts Golf Course ( credit: SKB Tourism) 

Beginning October 29, Winair will fly daily between St. Kitts and Nevis. Under a new arrangement, Winair is code-sharing connecting flights with US Airways and has interline agreements with Delta and British Airways. 

Timothy Hill with the Atlantic Ocean on the left and the Caribbean Sea on the right
(credit: M. Reffes ) 

From Canada, West Jet begins high season flights to Antigua on October 28 with twice weekly service from Toronto continuing through April. “These WestJet flights will add  7,000 additional seats from Canada for  the upcoming season which is a 15% growth in seats, “ said Colin James, CEO , Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority, “Arrivals from Canada are up 26 percent for the first quarter of this year  compared to the same time period the year before . “

St. Kitts: Host with the Most

For travel through December 18, "Fall in Love with St. Kitts & Nevis" is an added-value bonanza offering major bang for the vacation buck. Hotel packages include seven nights for the price of four or five nights for the price of three,  breakfast daily ,discounts at shops, restaurants and attractions and a "Kids 'R' VIPS" add-on.  Packages are sold via American Airlines AA VacationsDelta Vacations and US Airways Vacations.

Targeting the family market, 393 -room St. Kitts Marriott Resort & Royal Beach Casino invites with the ‘Super Escape! Inclusive’   package which includes a round of golf, massage in the Spa and coupons for casino play. The only American chain on the island, the resort is one-stop-vacation shopping with eight restaurants , nine bars including the popular Cigar & Rum Bar, three pools, Emerald Mist spa, Pirates of St. Kitts Kids Club program and the largest Vegas-style casino in the Caribbean.  Fronting North Frigate Bay Beach, the resort is a seashell away from the Royal St. Kitts Golf Club course making it the perennial choice for corporate travelers, couples, singles sand families.

St. Kitts Marriott ( credit: Marriott resorts ) 

St. Kitts Marriott ( credit: M. Reffes ) 

Fresh from the kitchen at the Regal Airport Hotel in Hong Kong, Executive Chef William Stringfellow brings a wealth of expertise to his new post at the resort.  With more than two decades of experience, the UK-born culinary whiz has worked in Thailand, Japan, Malaysia, Middle East, Europe and Canada.  “The great thing about my profession is that one never stops learning, seeing, tasting or trying new products,” noted Chef Stringfellow, “ I am looking forward to discovering all the beauty and flavors the island of St. Kitts has to offer.”

Slated to open in the first quarter of 2013, Kittitian Hill is hailed as the island’s first upscale hotel with uber-fancy cottages and villas and a championship golf course. Managed by Sedona Resorts in Arizona , costing $400 million ( USD) and yet to be named, 84 hilltop cottages are stunning with gigantic television drop-down screens, outdoor bathtubs and spectacular terraces for sublime viewing of the island.  Construction is also underway for a Terrace Complex which will include a restaurant, bar,  unique golf course that will be dotted with fruit trees and vegetable gardens, pool , state-of-the-art fitness centre, gourmet dining including a staff cafeteria also open to guests and electric cars for those staying in the hotel. 

(credit: M. Reffes ) 

(credit: M. Reffes ) 

A 200-room  and 50 condominium Park Hyatt will  open in  Christophe Harbour for the  2014-2015 season marking the second US brand , after the St. Kitts Marriott, to set up shop on the island. When complete, the property will offer a fitness center, two restaurants and meeting space.   On the southeast tip of the peninsula, Christophe Harbour will also house a mega- yacht marina, Tom Fazio championship golf course, boutiques and restaurants. "Four villas and four bungalows are already open, "said Bill Lee, COO, Christophe Harbour, " we have heard a lot of polite moaning and groaning about the economy over the past five years , however, we are looking forward to a brighter 2013." 

Christophe Harbour Pavilion ( credit: M. Reffes ) 

Looking Ahead

April 15 – 18, 2013:  Sustainable Tourism Conference ( STC 14) will be held in Trinidad & Tobago.     

October 13, 2013 (week of ) State of the Industry 2013 - Martinique
 “ Showing our support and commitment to the region and to the CTO, “  said Karine Roy-Camille , commissioner tourism authority, Martinique, “ we are pleased to host the 2013 State of the Industry conference of on our beautiful island. We look forward to welcoming you all to the Isle of Flowers next year and giving you a taste of our special brand of French-Creole warmth and hospitality.

Martinique sunset ( credit: Luc Olivier ) 
For more information - for more information. 

           Snapshots from 2013 STATE OF THE INDUSTRY  

Melanie hard at work atop Timothy Hill with the Caribbean Sea on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other.
(credit: T. Grey  ) 

Students from the Charlestown Primary School in Nevis en route home from St .Kitts on the ferry
(credit: M. Reffes ) 

Guide Thenford Grey - ( credit: M. Reffes ) 
Dancer at the Opening Ceremony ( credit: G. Myers )

Singer at the Opening Ceremony ( credit: B. Cancellare/CTO )


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