First Annual Caribbean Tourism Summit (ACTS)Photos CTOText & Photos by Melanie Reffes

Finding new ways to succeed in a rapidly changing and increasingly challenging market was the theme at the First Annual Caribbean Tourism Summit (ACTS) held in June at the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center in Washington D.C. Three hundred and twenty delegates representing the political, tourism and investment sectors focussed on the future of the Caribbean tourism product through seminars, networking sessions and gala evenings at the Summit, organized by the Caribbean Tourism Development Company (CTDC), Caribbean Hotel Association (CHA) and the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO).

More than two million Canadians visit the Caribbean each year and according to Hugh Riley, Co-Chief Operating Officer of the Caribbean Tourism Development Company, and the numbers are expected to increase. “Canada is a steadfast source of visitors and an important supplier of convenient air service to the Caribbean,” he said. “One cannot realistically discuss the future of the tourism industry without paying close attention to the global economic environment including the stability of Canada's economy and the strength of the loonie.”

St. Lucia’s Tourism Minister, Allen Chastanet, noted the region is faced with the necessity to make, “a quantum leap” in its business practices in order to adapt to challenges from skyrocketing global oil prices and a struggling airline industry. “The Caribbean can weather the tourism storm,” he said. “There is a silver lining in the midst of today’s economic crisis and the Caribbean must be aggressive in the short and medium terms in order to be competitive in the long term.”

A popular destination for Canadians, St. Maarten is anticipating a busy fall and winter season. “Canada is one of our top-producing visitor arrival markets,” said Roy Marlin, Tourism Commissioner. “Visitors from Canada have a high expenditure pattern and enjoy St. Maarten for our luxury accommodations, high-end services and multi-ethnic mosaic. We look forward to continued sustainability from Canada.”


Taking the reins from outgoing CHA President Peter Odle, incoming president Enrique De Marchena, echoed that optimism. ”I believe the future of the Caribbean is bright,” he said. “Over the last few years we have vastly improved our tourism infrastructure. We now need to come together under the Caribbean Brand to improve the marketing of our hotels and destinations in order to increase the flow of vacationers to the Caribbean.”

According to Sue Webb, Director of the CTO for Canada, many of the Caribbean destinations are experiencing record-breaking numbers of travellers from Canada. “To continue this momentum, the CTO member countries will be launching events across Canada which will promote the diversity of the region.”

The next tourism event for industry professionals will be the 2nd Annual Caribbean Week in Toronto September 24 to 30, which will include a new forum for travel professionals and a Caribbean Investment summit to identify commercial opportunities within the region.

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