“The perception is that if a crisis hits one part of the Caribbean, then the whole region is wiped out,” said Frank Comito, director general of the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association, at CHTA’s annual Marketplace. The region’s largest tourism industry gathering—it attracts 1,000 or so representatives of hotels, destinations, tour packagers, travel advisors, and other travel professionals—Marketplace was held last week at Baha Mar in Nassau, Bahamas. Comito added, “We need to better educate the public about our region.
CHTA and other stakeholders, including travel advisors, are making progress. “2019 could be known as the year of the Caribbean,” STR Data stated in a report distributed at the conference. For example, while RevPAR in Mexico fell 67 percent through November, the Caribbean notched a 3 percent increase, and it might even break its absolute RevPAR record from 2015. Moreover. this increase occurred despite a decline of almost 3 percent in absolute occupancy. How could that be? As noted in the December issue of Recommend new and renovated accommodations have raised levels of luxury and, therefore, revenue. And that means higher commissions per room-night for you.
Here are a few other facts about the Caribbean as a region that bode well for travel advisors:
- Air arrivals rose 4.4 percent in 2019 through September.
- Tourism performance and hotel inventory are, on average, near pre-Irma levels for most of the six destinations impacted by 2017’s hurricanes. Just consider this tidbit from Comito: 95 percent of Puerto Rico’s room inventory is back, and I would add that most of that has been back for 18 months.
- In CHTA’s new Industry Performance and Outlook survey, only 15 percent of respondents feel negative about the outlook for 2020, and 0 percent feel “extremely negative.” That leaves a healthy 85 percent of members expecting a “fair” to an “extremely positive” year.
- Similarly, 90 percent view the Caribbean’s tourism economy as moderately to extremely strong.
- Patricia Affonso-Dass, group manager of Ocean Hotels and departing president of CHTA, acknowledged that whereas the organization started out with a predominance of independently owned hotels, “The number of independent hotels is dropping.” Of course, you knew that.
- Karen Whitt, v.p. of sales and marketing for The Hartling Group Resorts and Residences, and incoming president of CHTA, announced that the association will be gathering feedback on Marketplace from 12 travel advisors. “We wanted to hear from travel agents, and the suppliers are excited about that.” She linked this embrace of travel advisors to CHTA’s mission to “remain relevant.”
One more bit of regional news of interest to travel advisors: Dominic Fedee, tourism minister of Saint Lucia and chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (representing the public sector), said that CTO, which has been reexamining and reorganizing itself of late, will host a Caribbean Week in New York City this June that travel advisors will want to attend. Indeed, he promised that this year’s event will “take over New York.”