Optimism At Caribbean Small Hotels Retreat

The highly anticipated 2009 Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) Small Hotels Retreat kicked off in the U.S. Virgin Islands last night with a larger than expected delegation of small hoteliers, optimistic about their prospects in an improved 2010 economy.

"The small hotels of the Caribbean are the salt and spice, and yes - the heart and soul of our region. They are as diversified as our people and we truly believe this is where we stand out," said Beverly Nicholson-Doty, Commissioner of Tourism for the U.S.V.I. in her keynote address at the retreat's opening ceremony. "At the end of the day, this is the group that is vested in our community."

During her keynote address, Nicholson-Doty unveiled a massive program of interdepartmental support for the small hotels of the U.S.V.I. It's support expected to generate high interest in visits to those smaller hotels that are challenged throughout the region. In The Bahamas, many small hotels are barely treading water as visitor arrivals to the nation fall by more than 13 percent.

CHTA President Enrique De Marchena Kaluche (pictured right) delivered inspirational remarks on the state of the economy and its projected impact on the Caribbean tourism industry.

"The good news is that the pent up demand for warm weather vacations is at its highest point in well over a decade," said De Marchena Kaluche. "Several of the world's largest economies, such as Germany and France, have already pulled themselves out of recession, and consumer confidence in the U.S. is beginning to return to normal levels.

"While speculation on the speed of the recovery varies depending on who you ask, the important thing is that 2010 is sure to see an improvement."

After surviving a difficult year, he said the region must work together to rebuild its tourism industry and update the Caribbean's image in the eyes of travelers with modern, state-of-the art facilities and impeccable service. As the recovery continues and consumer travel spending increases, De Marchena Kaluche said the Caribbean will see some much needed relief, but points to the question still remaining - to what extent will the Caribbean hospitality industry expand in comparison to other emerging markets?

"Coming into 2010, the Caribbean is competing on a global level with destinations that are just as hungry for tourism [and] in some cases, these emerging destinations have newer infrastructure and less reliance on expensive imports," said De Marchena Kaluche.

"Now more than ever before we must work together to improve our tourism product. We must double our efforts to come together as a united region in order to clearly demonstrate why there is no substitute for a Caribbean vacation.

"As small hoteliers, it is essential that we identify that which makes us unique and implement strategies to differentiate each individual property, but it is important that this be done within the overall context of a unified Caribbean."

He added that small boutique hotels and guest houses are what the Caribbean was all about and that the unique flavor of the individual properties should complement one another.

"Our hospitality business is inherently competitive, but if we pool our resources, we can exponentially increase the impact of our marketing and we will all profit together," he said. "There's much hard work to be done, but we can potentially begin to see the benefits of our hard work as early as this winter season."

Source: The Nassau Guardian
Last Updated on Sunday, 04 October 2009 17:30