The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) held its 2019 C.T.O Media Awards yesterday afternoon in Toronto.
READ MORE: PAX Checks In with the CTO's Nancy Drolet
Alongside recognizing several trade and consumer journalists for their works depicting the Caribbean, yesterday's gathering was a chance for the CTO to catch up with the North American market, and brief the media on what's new, which includes revamping their approach to create a stronger presence here in Canada.
"This is a time of restructuring, and reinventing ourselves, because it's very clear to us that the organization needs to move in a different direction," Dominic Fedee, Chair of the CTO and Minister of Tourism, Saint Lucia, told the crowd. "The Caribbean is the world's leading tourism economy, but yet there are issues that preclude the Caribbean from being effective in developing itself as a major tourism player."
According to Fedee, one of the areas that needs work is keeping track of statistics for each Caribbean country, such as arrival stays and overall visitation records, citing a major data shortage. On a similar note, Fedee reported that many of the islands previously affected by Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria in 2017 are back on track, welcoming a record number of visitors since, largely thanks to airlines resuming their flights.
Numbers are up
In the first quarter of the year, the Caribbean welcomed 1.4 million visitors from Canada. Between January and March of this year, 9.1 million international tourists took trips to the Caribbean, with Canada representing approximately 10 per cent of those numbers. Overall, arrivals are up by 12 per cent.
"The Caribbean is one of the best brands in the world, and it has a wealth of potential, but it's perhaps the most neglected brand in the world, as our members focus on individual destinations," Fedee explained. "We're all in the same region, with the same markets, so by coming together, we can become a stronger force and brand."
The CTO is currently promoting a new concept, called "village tourism" in Saint Lucia which focuses on highlighting some of the smaller communities outside of typical resort destinations so that visitors can engage more with the destination on an authentic, local scale. According to Fedee, many other Caribbean countries are following suit and offering similar concepts to highlight the uniqueness of smaller villages.
"The role of Indigenous peoples to the Caribbean, as well as community-based tourism is going to play a significant role as the Caribbean embraces the wealth of heritage and culture we possess as an island," Fedee said. "Travel trends suggest that people are looking for more than what we've offered in the Caribbean, as just a 'warm weather destination with a beach to go lay on'."
Prior to the awards ceremony, the CTO held a Caribbean marketplace, where Caribbean tourism boards and suppliers could network with members of the media to share their latest destination updates.
Alongside members of the media receiving their respective awards, the CTO also handed out a Lifetime Achievement award to Dr. Rita Cox for her outstanding contributions to Caribbean storytelling.
Fedee also noted that the CTO is actively looking for a new secretary general, to fill the role of the previous secretary general, Hugh Riley, who retired in April 2019.
See the photos from the 2019 CTO Media Awards on our Facebook page!
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