CHTA bats for multi-destination Caribbean packages

Moots agent training programme at Caribbean Travel Forum
/ New Delhi
CHTA bats for multi-destination Caribbean packages

Puerto Rico delivered warm hospitality at the opening of Caribbean Travel Marketplace (Photo: CHTA/Facebook)

The issue of selling Caribbean as a destination with multiple countries rather than a single nation trip has come up again at the Caribbean Travel Forum in Puerto Rico with the hotel industry association asking for agent training programme so that they can sell multiple-country tour packages, pretty much on the lines of Schengen or other European circuits.
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As the Caribbean Travel Forum opened to a full house at Hotel Caribe Hilton at San Juan in Puerto Rico on Monday, the issue of reforming Caribbean tourism came up again for discussions, with many participants pitching for innovating in tourism to project Caribbean as a destination beyond the sun, the sand and the sea.

One of the most proactive campaigners for a multi-destination Caribbean was the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA) which says it will launch a “Certified Caribbean Travel Advisor Program” in 2023 as part of a strategy to position the Caribbean as a multi-destination experience. “We have travel advisors that have been selling some destinations in the Caribbean, but don’t know the other destinations. “They are not aware of the diversity and differences between each island,” said Nicola Madden-Greig, president of the CHTA, while addressing delegates at the Caribbean Travel Forum that concludes tonight.

‘‘While the Caribbean is known for its all-inclusive and romance products, we have a lot of opportunity to do more in terms of nature, culture and gastronomy,” said Madden-Greig at a session.

She advocated that Caribbean needed to be sold for the variety that the destinations offer in the region, instead of the current focus on the beaches, but for that all the stakeholders needed to be better informed. “There’s so much lack of knowledge of what a Caribbean product is. We are kind of stuck, maybe in our own heads, on sun, sea and sand,” she said, even though the consumers were looking for beyond this.

“We are so far beyond that. And the consumer is way beyond that. They want to hike, they want cycling tours. We have to understand that the market is changing,” Madden-Greig added.

In this context, she said, the certification programme being developed by the CHTA for the trade will take already-existing specialist courses offered by major hotel brands and tourism boards to the next level and that to carry it out, the hotel industry will work closely with all other stakeholders like the Ministers of Tourism, tourism boards, as well as the hotel associations.

Another key point addressed by Madden-Greig was to position the Caribbean as more than one country, like the European nations which are mainly packaged as a single circuit with multiple countries. “If we are going to Europe, do we go to one country? No. We tend to visit two or three. The Caribbean has to be seen in the same light,” Madden-Greig said.

The concept has been in the air for a while and was also raised in the September meeting of Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and International Air Transport Association (IATA) in the Cayman Islands.

However, the Caribbean needs to revamp its intra-region air connectivity which has yet to recover to the pre-pandemic level and needs to go even beyond that. Madden-Greig also raised this issue in her speech.

“Travel within the Caribbean has been very slow to rebound,” she said, noting how international lift from source markets in North and South America and Europe is what’s driving the recovery. We are still looking at a major loss in terms of travel within the region. The only way to do this is to have good inter-regional airlift. That’s something we have to solve,” she said.

This year’s Caribbean Travel Marketplace marks a return to in-person programming – the last face-to-face event was held in Nassau in late January 2020, two months before Covid-19 led to a total clamp down on movement. But now, boosted by a dynamic and vibrant summer, 2022 may end up surpassing even the 2018 records.

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