|Hugh Riley, secretary general & CEO, CTO
In the midst of Caribbean Week in Toronto, the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) held a press conference followed by a media marketplace on Thursday to update the Canadian travel industry on the organization’s current plans, projects and vision.
Hugh Riley, secretary general & CEO, CTO outlined the current state of Canadian travel to the Caribbean and fielded questions on a variety of Caribbean tourism related topics during a morning briefing at the Pantages Hotel Toronto.
Over the past five years, Canada has remained the most consistent market travelling to the Caribbean, with an increase in visitors every year. Canada has the distinction of being the only country that has seen year-over-year growth on an annual basis over that time.
In 2012, Canadian visits to the Caribbean are up 5.3 per cent which will see about 2.8 million visitors experience the destination. Overall, Canadians represent 14 per cent of all Caribbean arrivals.
“This market has displayed the greatest buoyancy of all the economic turmoil that currently exists internationally,” said Riley.
The Visitor Spend Problem
It is not all good news for Canadian travel to the Caribbean from the CTO’s standpoint, as visitor spend is on a downward trend.
“Our research shows that we need to be paying a lot more attention to that other critically important metric, and that is visitor spend,” Riley said.
Visitor spend has decreased since 2008, as much as by 14 per cent in one CTO member country.
“We’re closing the gap a little bit, but it continues to be a concern that revenue lags so far behind arrivals,” said Riley.
Currently, visitors are spending less money to get to the Caribbean, with costs significantly lower today than they were prior to 9-11. In relation, visitors are spending less and differently once they are in destination.
“That will change as the world comes out of its economic downturn... things will get back to somewhere close to what they used to be. Although I think we have a new norm. I don’t think we’re ever going to see things exactly the way they used to be. I think that there is a new norm that we have to accept,” said Riley.
A New Vision for the CTO
“The CTO is in the midst of an organizational audit and review,” Riley revealed. “Our whole organization has gone through a process which has examined our structure, examined our very core, examined the way we do business, examined the way we interact with our members, examined the way that our members feel about us."
Riley admitted that some of what the audit and review discovered was somewhat embarrassing for the organization, but was necessary if it was looking to move forward best.
“What has come out, among other things, is a new vision for the CTO, which is to position the Caribbean as the most desirable year-round warm weather destination in five years, by 2017,” said Riley.
Riley suggested that the five-year plan to reinvent the CTO is far-reaching and will affect every aspect of the organization going forward.
“Everyone who works within the organization has a specific role to play in reaching that particular vision for the Caribbean region.”
Though Riley said the plan was far too elaborate to break down into detail during the briefing, he did outline some of the key points for the new vision.
For one, the CTO has realized that it needs to compete with all warm weather destinations around the world and properly communicate that the resources at its disposal are “what gives t[the Caribbean] the advantage.”
Riley said the CTO recognizes that is has far less financial resources at its disposal than do some of its main competitors. To counteract this, Riley said the CTO must be as creative as it can be to get the message out there.
“We will achieve our vision,” he said.
|Hugh Riley,secretary general & CEO, CTO
In all likelihood, visitor numbers to the Caribbean from Canada will continue to increase in the future as well. Riley pointed out that WestJet will soon be commencing flights from Toronto to Antigua this weekend, and flights to Port of Spain, Trinidad on Nov. 16.
Air Canada will resume its non-stop flights from Toronto to St. Kitts, which were introduced last year.
Canadian Travel Agents and the Caribbean
“Our member partners are continuing to engage our industry partners here,” said Riley.
This summer, more than 80 Canadian travel agents completed a training course to become Discover Dominica Destination specialists. Dominica is now extending that training to allow additional travel agents in Canada to become Dominica Specialists, and new participants can earn the chance to win a five-day island stay.
Trinidad and Tobago will be hosting a roadshow with hoteliers, restaurateurs and destination points of interest in the first week of December. The roadshow will visit Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. Trinidad and Tobago will also host Canadian travel agents and wholesalers at the annual Weddings & Honeymoon Symposium to be held in Tobago at the end of November.
In April 2013, Trinidad and Tobago will host the 14th Annual Sustainable Tourism Conference.
“The Sustainable Tourism Conference is rapidly becoming one of the most important conferences that have anything to do with tourism in the entire Caribbean. Sustainability is at the core of what we do. It’s in our mission statement,” said Riley.
The Caribbean Diaspora Conference will be held in May of next year and Martinique will host the CTO’s largest annual conference, the State of the Industry Conference, in October 2013.