Op-Ed: Working Together to Promote the Caribbean Tourism Brand

By: Caribbean Journal Staff - July 30, 2012

By Richard Doumeng
Op-Ed Contributor

2012 marks the 50th anniversary of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA). It’s also a time of continuing challenges for tourism in the region. A prolonged state of economic uncertainty in the world. Airlift issues both traveling to the region and within the region.

I believe there is tremendous opportunity that lies ahead. As stated in a tourism meeting I attended several years ago, “the Caribbean is the largest unowned brand name in the world.” And I wholeheartedly agree.

So how can we strengthen our brand for success this year and the next 50 years? We have to work together as allies instead of adversaries. The issue is getting visitors to come to our part of the world in the first place. We’re not competing against each other. We’re competing against every other warm weather destination in the world.

Bolongo Bay Beach Resort on St Thomas is my family’s hotel. Of course, I want visitors to come and stay there. But, if they don’t, I would want them to stay on St Thomas. If not St Thomas, then St Croix. If not in the US Virgin Islands, I would rather them visit another Caribbean island so that the dollars benefit the residents of the region.

The economic impact of tourism extends far beyond hotels. Visitors spend money at restaurants, with taxi drivers, tour companies, gift shops, rental car agencies and gas stations.

There is even greater impact from destination weddings. For example, Bolongo is a very popular destination wedding hotel on St Thomas. But, on our staff, there is not an officiant, baker, florist, photographer, videographer, steel pan player, hair/nail/makeup person, massage therapist, limo driver, etc. These services are all provided by residents and small businesses on the island.

The businesses and residents who benefit from tourism dollars then have their own money to spend in the local economy, benefiting even more residents and businesses. When you support the institution of tourism and a hotel, the effect is exponential.

One way we are promoting the Caribbean brand to the global market is through the Caribbean Tourism Development Company (CTDC), which is a jointly-owned corporation with CHTA and the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO).

This is an exciting effort that is a real true partnership between our two organizations. After years of working in separate and parallel universes, the CHTA and CTO have come together as allies, instead of adversaries, and are enjoying the best working relationship in decades.

It is our goal that the CTDC will be a dynamic, state-of-the-art marketing company that will promote every single member nation, hotel and tourism-related company in the Caribbean. The first task will be the re-launch of CaribbeanTravel.com.

Re-launching the website, scheduled for September, is one of those efforts. It will support all member countries, hotels and tourism-related businesses within the region. Today, visitors are not just booking air and hotel prior to their arrival. They are booking entire vacations, planning an itinerary, making advance restaurant reservations, pre-booking tours and more.

The website is just one way that we can work to get the traveling world to think about the Caribbean. There are so many synergies in the region and opportunities to promote the Caribbean brand.

But, it is not just up to the CHTA, the CTO and CTDC. While I know times are tough and budgets are constricting, countries need to resist the natural urge to isolate and look at their own destination. Instead, I encourage countries to come together to help market the Caribbean brand by putting a small percentage of their advertising and marketing budget into a regional campaign. It is a smart marketing decision. Every single country benefits by promoting the region.

All of us, businesses, governments and people of the Caribbean, can and must come together now to promote our brand so that tomorrow and the next 50 years, we can all benefit from the growth and prosperity that tourism provides.

Richard Doumeng is the new President of the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association for 2012 – 2014, Managing Director of Bolongo Bay Beach Resort on St Thomas and past recipient of the CHTA Caribbean Hotelier of the Year award.

Note: the opinions expressed in Caribbean Journal Op-Eds are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Caribbean Journal.

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