Monday, June 10, 2013

The Caribbean Spices up the Big Apple

June 10, 2013

Melanie Reffes

New York City

The largest regional tourism event in the New York area, Caribbean Week in New York rocked the Big Apple with fashion shows, gospel concerts, cooking demonstrations, tropical parties and seminars for travel agents who sell the region. The annual event attracted regional tourism ministers, commissioners and directors of tourism, hoteliers, travel agents and those planning their next vacation in the Caribbean.
View from host hotel, The New Yorker (credit: M. Reffes )

For tourists booking the Caribbean for a vacation or a honeymoon, the popular Romance Pavilion was a big hit with those planning to tie the knot in the sunny south. "Today's consumers are empowered, travel savvy and know more about their travel options than ever before, “said Jacqueline Johnson, president, and event organizer , “bringing the best of the Caribbean to couples is just one of the ways to help them make informed choices about one of the most important events in their live.”
Romance Pavilion, Jacqueline Johnson, president  (credit: CTO) 
 Organized by the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), supporters of the Caribbean Week included the countries that make up the region , Association of Travel Marketing Executives (ATME), Caribbean American Chamber of Commerce, Caribbean Airlines, Elite Islands Resorts, Hyatt Regency, JetBlue, Sandals Resorts and the Empire State Building which was lit up in the colors of the tropics .
Hugh Riley, secretary general CTO, supermodel Georgie Badiel,  Beverly  Nicholson-Doty, Chairman CTO ( credit: CTO)

Supermodel Georgie Badiel, former Miss Africa and actress Tamara Tunie , celebrity spokesperson for Caribbean Week and  (credit: CTO ) 
Empire State Building in the colors of the Caribbean ( credit: CTO) 
Rise Up
Setting the stage for the week-long events, the Gospel Celebration lit up Brooklyn’s Bethesda Healing Center with a musical line-up that kept everyone on their feet. Fan favorites included ‘Know Your Culture’ ,  a non-profit troupe that blends dance with the traditional costumes of Dominica and  from Grenada, Janice Charles is the island's musical ambassador.  “The Gospel Celebration is an excellent way to begin what is for us the most important week on the calendar in New York,” says Sylma Brown, director, CTO, USA, “as Caribbean nationals, it’s part of our culture to begin events with praise and prayer and the Gospel Celebration allows us to maintain this tradition while we celebrate our unity and diversity.”
Know Your Culture ( credit:  CTO) 

Janice Charles ( credit: CTO) 
The Main Event
Vancouver-based and founder of the hospitality consulting company Reknown, Daniel Edward Craig wowed delegates with his  strategies to manage the online reputation of  hotels and destinations. The former general manager of Opus Vancouver, his clients have included Destination British Columbia and Trip Advisor.  “Consumer opinions posted online are increasingly trusted by those making travel decisions , “ he told delegates, “ social media has changed behavior in various areas including how travelers make decisions regarding where to go and who to do business with.” Effective use of social media, he explained, is key to a hotel’s profile and the success of a destination, “although tourists are using Twitter and Facebook routinely, video will be the next big thing in online reviews because it tells the real story. “ Acknowledging feedback, he added, "is paramount to managing an online reputation because travelers do not expect perfection but they do expect the truth which can mean the good, bad and the ugly. "  Recommending a staff person at every hotel be designated a gatekeeper to monitor social media, he suggested  " setting up alerts on Google or subscribing to a site such as ReviewPro which keeps track of social media performance and guest satisfaction.  “
Selling Paradise
 Travel agents were treated to another way to keep their heads above water during a well-attended seminar that focused on selling excursions above and below the waves. “This is one of the most important and lucrative niches of the Caribbean tourism product, “ said Sylma Brown, director, CTO USA, “from sailing and snorkeling to scuba diving and water-skiing, water sporting activities are as endless as the expansive beaches that fringe the Caribbean. ”
Diving in Bonaire (credit: Bonaire Tourism) 

Stingray City Grand Cayman ( credit: Stingray City ) 
Commissionable to agents, the many tour operators in the region are eagerly courting visitor participation on virtually every one of the islands. “This multibillion dollar industry represents a unique opportunity for travel agents who sell the Caribbean to increase their profits as the  destinations are continuing to develop and upgrade their product to appeal to the maximum number of visitors,” added Sylma Brown, director, CTO USA.

Island Banter
Opening on December 20, 230-room Sandals La Source Resort will introduce upgraded facilities to the former La Source property and is taking bookings now for high season.  “The opening of such a great resort will raise awareness of our island, “said Christine Noel-Horsford, head of marketing , Grenada Board of Tourism,”, the airlines are already taking notice with five flights a week on American Airlines starting in December  .” Perennially popular with elegance-seekers, Spice Island Beach Resort will close for three weeks in September for a US$1.8 million upgrade. New at the Mount Cinnamon Resort, Cinnamon Heights is a spacious three-bedroom villa ideal for multi-generational families or a gaggle of good pals. Later this year, Grenada Grand Beach Resort will be renamed and re-branded as the Radisson Grenada Beach Resort and at La Luna, thirty-five rooms will be added by the end of this year.  

Christine Noel-Horsford, head of marketing , Grenada Board of Tourism (credit: M. Reffes )

Spice Island Beach Resort ( credit: SIBR)
In St. Kitts, the much-anticipated Park Hyatt will open next year with 125 rooms, spa and two restaurants.  Also on the drawing board for Christophe Harbour, Tom Fazio-designed golf course, shopping promenades and additional  hotels to be added by 2015.  For the first quarter 2013, visitor arrivals saw a hike of 4.4%  driven by the addition of two non-stop American Airlines flights from Miami  and Delta’s upgrade to the aircraft size . Delta will reinstate peak season service starting from the first weekend in November . For travel through December 15, “Feel the Warmth St. Kitts & Nevis” offers gratis free nights, resort credits, discounts for families with children and reduced airfare via AA Vacations, Delta Vacations  and US Airways Vacations.

Caribbean coast in St. Kitts ( credit: SKB Tourism ) 
For agents selling St. Lucia, “Elevate Yourself” retreat takes its appreciation for travel agents to new heights with commissions on ticket sales  and added incentives for bookings of groups of twenty or more. The three-day retreat from November 1 – 3 includes seminars, seaside yoga, rainforest tours and cooking demonstrations.  “The retreat is becoming a notable event on island and we attribute much of the success of the program to our network of agents, “said Louis Lewis, director tourism , St. Lucia Tourist Board, “ the commission on tickets sales is just one way we can reward their unwavering efforts to promote the island.” Hotels participating include Bay Gardens Beach Resort and Smugglers Cove Resort.

Bay Gardens Beach Resort ( credit: Bay Gardens )
In St. Maarten, beds for heads are on sale during the summer including Divi Little Bay Beach offering thirty percent rate cuts starting at USD $174.00 per room, per night.  In the heart of Philipsburg, Holland House is offering a four-night Beach Special  that includes an oceanfront room, breakfast for two and WI-Fi and is valid for travel through October 30. www.hhbh.comAt Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort and Sonesta Maho Beach Resort, "Fun in the Sun" package comes with a thirty-five percent rate reduction on all-inclusive stays with a three-night minimum. Five night stays include USD$200.00 in resort credits  valid for travel through September 30 with reservations made by July 31. ,

Sonesta Maho Beach Resort ( credit: M. Reffes ) 

Marla Chemont, Edward Dest, Rosette Generlette,  St Maarten Tourist Bureau (credit: M. Reffes) 
 Next door in Anguilla, Malliouhana Hotel  with new pools ,restaurants and revamped rooms will open later this year while the  32-room Manoah on Shoal Bay and the Zemi Beach Resort are slated to open in 2016 . “Anguilla is not only for the rich and famous, “ said Haydn Hughes, parliamentary secretary, tourism, “we have 2,000 hotel rooms at various price points which appeal to travelers of all budgets. “

Haydn Hughes, parliamentary secretary, tourism 
(credit: J. Stephens)
Anguilla beach ( credit: ABT)
Show Me the Money
The third annual Avalon Invest Caribbean Now Forum, organized the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO)  and digital media solutions company, Hard Beat Communications, was the hot ticket for Caribbean tourism ministers, private-sector partners ,government policy makers and Chinese investors who came together on the heels of Chinese President’s Xi Jinping’s pledge of  USD$3 billion in loans to ten Caribbean nations . “The Chinese private sectors are seeking opportunities in the Caribbean such as hospitality, real estate, healthcare and education industry because they are easy to operate, are transparent and create jobs,” said Li Li, managing director, Chinese American Business Development Center,” the people of the Caribbean are dynamic entrepreneurs, highly educated, hard-working, ambitious, and optimistic.” 

Li Li, managing director, Chinese American Business Development Center , New York  (credit: Hayden Roger Celestin)

ICN founder Felicia Persaud, 4th from right, with Mike Ronan, vice president of government relations for the Caribbean, Latin America & Asia at RCCL, 4th from l.; Miguel Reyna, director, Port Business Development and Asset Management, 3rd from r;  Kara Coleman, news anchor of One Caribbean Television, 2nd from left and the China and the Caribbean panellists including Li Li, managing director ,Chinese American Business Development Center ,Consul in charge of economic & commercial affairs of the Consulate General of China in New York, Xiaoguang Liu; 3rd from r. and Johnny Liu ,American Chinese Commerce Development Association at right.  (credit: Hayden Roger Celestin )
Keenly interested in Chinese investment , Dr. Rufus Ewing, premier of Turks and Caicos said his country is open for business, “we are looking for low density high luxury development and for  this, we are offering tax incentives to make development more attractive. “ Other projects in the works include the expansion of the Providenciales International Airport; Caicos Causeway Project that will stretch from Providenciales to South Caicos and yachting tourism that includes marina development. In 2012, China invested USD$9 billion in the Caribbean, a 9.4% increase over 2011. In the next two years, China will invest in Caribbean agricultural centers and the hospitality industry, set up 1,000 scholarships for medical students, develop sports facilities and computer centers and invest in secondary schools on several islands. Direct airlift from China to the Caribbean is the biggest challenge, said Xiaoguang Liu, consul in charge of economic affairs, Consulate General of China in New York,  “if airlift materializes, prepare your airports and get ready for the invasion,” he said, “Chinese travelers could top 100 million by 2015. To attract even a small portion of these travelers, Caribbean resorts must adapt to the Chinese visitor.” 

Also in attendance, Anthony Eterno, Caribbean affairs officer, US State Department, reiterated the Obama administration’s commitment to an economic partnership with the Caribbean. "Ours is a relationship that is born of a strong desire by all of our countries to collectively participate in an improved and sustainable future," he told delegates,” we see the positive results of this strong partnership creating economic growth and prosperity for all of our citizens.” In 2012, U.S. imports from the Caribbean totaled more than USD$11 billion, representing a 178 percent increase over the past decade while U.S. exports to the Caribbean totaled USD$12 billion , a  133 percent increase over the past decade.    “ Caribbean governments should do more to  sell  the diverse Caribbean investment story to the right people, “said Felicia Persaud, founder , Hard Beat Communications,  “the region is relevant despite what the naysayers may claim with  eight nations in the Caribbean ranked in the top 100 fastest growing economies globally.”

Anthony Eterno, Caribbean affairs officer, US State Department ( credit: M. Reffes ) 

Next Up
The ‘State of the Industry ‘Conference will be held this year in Martinique from October 15 to October 18 under the banner ‘Perfecting The Experience and Delivering Authenticity.’  ” Hosting the State of the Industry Conference is a great honor and we are extremely proud of it, “said Karine Roy-Camille, commissioner tourism, “we look forward to welcoming delegates to the Isle of Flowers in October for a taste of our special brand of French-Creole warmth and hospitality.” 
Sainte Anne, Martinique  (credit: Luc Olivier ) 

 Photos Fabulous 
Willy Monfret, model and spokesperson Guadeloupe Tourist Board, Sandra Venite, coordinator, trade and marketing, Guadeloupe Tourist Board,   (credit: M. Reffes ) 

Rum & Rhythm ( credit: CTO ) 
Rum and Rhythm ( credit : CTO) 

Anguilla Tourist Board ( credit: CTO)  
St. Vincent Tourist Board ( credit: CTO  ) 

Jamaica chef Brian Lumley serves Jamaican-style cuisine on TV and at Bloomingdale’s (credit: JTB) 

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  1. Congratulations to Felicia Persaud a well developed and executed project that must become an annual event.

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