January 22, 2009



The CHTA Caribbean Market Place hosted in Saint Lucia from January 18 – 20, 2009 was very timely as it has put Saint Lucia into focus at a very critical time in the industry. Global tourism industry movers and shakers have noted the achievement of Saint Lucia in hosting such an event. The collaboration among the organizers and sponsors is worthy of the highest commendation. It has been proven once again that working together, great things can be achieved.

The Caribbean Hotel Association (CHA) was founded in 1962 and in 2008 became Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) in an effort to embrace all stakeholders – businesses and organisations in the industry. It has a membership of more than 800 member hotels and 750 allied members. You can visit their website at

The St Lucia Hotel and Tourism Association in collaboration with the St. Lucia Tourist Board, Ministry of Tourism and Civil aviation and the Caribbean gave a fitting welcome to the visitors at the Opening and Awards Ceremony at the Gaiety on Sunday evening, 18th February, 2009.

St. Lucia has received yet another award for being an excellent destination. This time it is the Star Diamond Award from the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences. Mr. Joseph Cinque, President of the Academy presented a plaque to Prime Minister, Hon. Stephenson King who approvingly passed it on the Senator, Hon. Allen Chastanet whose efforts in promoting St. Lucia as a destination of choice is tireless. It was a great evening for the Honourable Minister as it was announced that finally the Caribbean Destination Marketing Plan has been approved.

St. Lucia took advantage of the opportunity to launch its BRAND during Caribbean Market Place 2009 while the local, regional and international media were on hand. It was a proud moment marked with fanfare as the SAINT LUCIA BRAND was unveiled. You can now let your imagination soar to the heavens with what you perceive Saint Lucia to be. There is a lot more to Saint Lucia than being simply beautiful. It is no longer Saint Lucia – Simply Beautiful – there is no tag line to the BRAND. There should be a competition to get an idea of what citizens and visitors perceive Saint Lucia to be. The Tourism Master Plan was shared with the gathering and the Village Tourism Concept was well received.

The statistics provided by the organizers are impressive and point to the fact that interest in the tourism industry continues to be strong. There were a total of 406 booths lining the corridors at Caribbean Market Place 2009 as 1,366 delegates gathered to meet to and discuss marketing initiatives that are needed to spur demand for Caribbean vacations.

This is the first time in a decade that the number of booths topped the 400 mark. There were 397 booths in 2008 and 371 booths in 2007.

There were 871 supplier delegates ready to meet with 298 buyers from 124 partner wholesaler tour operator companies from more than 20 countries worldwide. This compares favourably to a year ago when there was 908 supplier delegates. However, the number of buyer companies has decreased as consolidation in the industry continues to shrink the number of wholesalers worldwide. The 12,292 scheduled appointments were second in number to the record set last year, indicating that interest in meetings between suppliers and buyers remains strong. (Statistics extracted from Media Contacts KTCpr 20/1/09).

I had the privilege and pleasure of attending 10 press conferences, two press lunches and on press breakfast which provided me with a good sense of where the industry is today and where it is headed over the next three years. In spite of the global economic down turn, industry leaders during their presentations have expressed a degree of confidence that they will be able to ride out the storm.

It is important to note that CHTA Caribbean Market Place is an annual Event which showcases tourism related services to promote the offerings of its members and is hosted by one of the countries in the region. St. Lucia is the first to host a Market Place in the Eastern Caribbean.

I took the opportunity to discuss with two Ritz Carlton Marketing Executives prior to and at their Press Breakfast, the status of their Black Bay project. They clarified a situation which most people do not fully understand. It is necessary to differentiate between a Developer and an Operator. There is a developer for the Black Bay property. Ritz Carlton will be the operator when the property is completed and handed over. However, it makes good sense for Brand association throughout the development of the project. The project is scheduled for completion in 2012.

Customers Incentives are high on the marketing agenda of hoteliers as some offer substantial discounts while others offer value added. Both approaches reduce the bottom line but the later maintains a pricing level that will be easily retained beyond the crisis and does not diminish the premium status established in the first place. The value added approach seems to be favoured by the high end properties.

Hon. Richard Skerritt, Minister of State for Tourism, Sports and Culture at St. Kitts Press Conference shared his Government’s efforts at sustaining the industry. He made special reference to a package of incentives which includes Free entry on import of materials, machinery, food and wine that is being given to small hotels to assist them in cutting cost during these difficult times, while affording them the opportunity to upgrade their hotels and be more efficient. He noted that timely reports on their operations will have to be provided.

I was very impressed with the presentation by Mrs. Ronella Tjin Asjoe-Croes, Director of Tourism at the Bonaire Press Conference. She demonstrated that with passion for your industry, your story could inspire your listeners to dream. Bonaire has been on the upward trend in recent years and has established a place for itself as a leading windsurfing destination. Her presentation was centered on expansion and gains made in the industry.

St. Lucian service providers and volunteers have done a great job and their performance attests to the quality of service that is available in St. Lucia. Hoteliers have taken note of this and are planning to recruit St. Lucians in the industry to take up appointments overseas. Our taxi drivers also came in for high praise. St. Lucia is a special place and its people shine every time. Bay Gardens Resort catered for on site meals and served as much as 1,300 lunches on the last day of event. This is a great achievement for a small hotel.

The reception and show at Pigeon Island on 20/1/09 gave St. Lucians another opportunity to appreciate their culture, especially our local artistes. It was an opportunity well utilized to showcase our culture to the visitors.

What is the legacy? I was reminded that the efficiency of the volunteers was as a result of the training received in preparation for CWC 2007 and their subsequent participation in the event. The legacy of Caribbean Market Place 2009 will be the focused PR provided by the Journalists to the world. The decision to host the event at this time will pay dividends even when the filed reports to media houses around the world rest in their archives.

Make 2009 you best year ever, Keep the Faith, God is in Charge, Dream Big and Expect Miracles Everyday!!!

Edward Harris
Real Estate CyberSpace Specialist (RECS)
Freelance Journalist, Biblicist, Business & PR Consultant, Realtor, Networker, Private Sector & CSR Advocate, Motivational Speaker

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