A New Kind of Caribbean Travel Conference


Above: San Juan (CJ Photo)

By Alexander Britell

The Caribbean’s newest travel idea isn’t new.

But the thinking behind it is a kind of revolution for the region’s travel industry.

Pow Wow. Florida Huddle. FITUR. There are major international shows and conferences for travel agents. But until now, there hasn’t really been one for the Caribbean.

That’s what Puerto Rico is trying to change with the new International Tourism Expo Puerto Rico (ETI) conference.

The conference, which begins May 13 in San Juan, is aiming to become a first-of-its-kind show in the region.

“We want to make this conference the premiere and largest trade event in the Caribbean,” says MariJo Laborde, chief marketing officer for the Puerto Rico Tourism Company. “There are places like London that has World Travel Market and Germany has ITB and Spain has FITUR and there’s Pow Wow in the US — but there’s really nothing that encompasses the Caribbean.”

While the show will be hosted in Puerto Rico, it will be a Caribbean show — that means exhibitors from around St Kitts to Colombia to beyond, with a focus on Puerto Rico and all of its municipalities and destinations.

“It’s a very wide and interesting group of exhibitors that will make for a really fun show,” Laborde says. “And I mean fun in every sense of the word.”

Ans so far, the response has been good, Laborde says, with more than 100 exhibitors already signed up.

But there’s a larger point about this show. This is about thinking big — thinking about the Caribbean competing globally and staying on the cutting edge of the global travel market.

And it’s not just a show for travel agents, Laborde says. There is also going to be a Saturday component that’s open to the public.

The ultimate goal, though, is beyond the travel trade — it’s to position the Caribbean and its ever-important tourism sector in a new way.

And that kind of thinking — seeing the region as a major player on the world stage, and acting like one — is significant.

This year’s show lasts through May 16.


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