Martinique Eyes 1 Million Visitors By 2020

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Above: Martinique Tourism Commissioner Karine Roy-Camille

By Alexander Britell

It’s now been a year since Martinique Tourism Commissioner Karine Roy-Camille addressed the media at the CTO’s State of the Industry Conference in St Kitts.

At the time, she was a relative unknown outside of the French Caribbean. In a short time, however, she’s become one of the more regionally involved tourism officials in the Caribbean — and Martinique is ramping up its tourism plans.

The ultimate goal? To receive 1 million annual visitors by the year 2020, Roy-Camille announced on Wednesday.

It’s an ambitious goal for the French Caribbean department — that would place it in a select class; in 2012, just six Caribbean destinations counted more than 1 million annual arrivals: the Bahamas, Cuba, Cancun, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Puerto Rico, according to data from the Caribbean Tourism Organization.

It’s all part of a shift in strategy for Martinique, which, although it has generally seen a strong GDP contribution from tourism, has tended to receive few visitors from the US and interacted little with the rest of the region’s tourism industry.

And since the St Kitts conference in 2012, Martinique has gone from being an outsider in the Caribbean tourism industry to the high-profile host of the region’s leading tourism conference this week.

The SOTIC conference has put Martinique and its tourism sector on centre stage, as the French island looks to continue to deepen its relationships with the rest of the Caribbean and broaden its tourism arrivals beyond mainland France — with an emphasis on courting those long-sought-after US tourists.

The latter seems to have been buoyed by the addition of new weekly direct flights from Miami on American Airlines and from San Juan on Seabourne, with more to come later this year.

Crucially, Martinique’s efforts seem to be paying off. After receiving 573,352 visitors in 2012, the island says it saw 641,000 visitors in 2012, an increase of almost 12 percent.

But can Martinique double its arrivals in seven years?

If it can finally tap into the ultra-competitive US market, that may not be unrealistic.