I especially love the turn of the year as it provides a wonderful opportunity not just to look back and take stock of the year that has passed, but more importantly to look to the year that lies ahead.
We have much to be proud of for the way in which our industry and our association have taken up the challenges of the past year and successfully folded them into an optimistic canvas for the New Year. I’m truly heartened by the incredible sense of giving by so many in our industry who, over the past several years, have contributed generously to help their colleagues and the people of the Caribbean rebound in a great time of need.
I am especially proud of the resilience of our people and of our amazing industry to rise up from adversity, rebuild, rebound, move forward and continue to offer our warm Caribbean welcome to the world.
The destinations hardest hit by the 2017 hurricanes have made impressive progress to pre-hurricane levels and are back on track with new and improved product. Their fortitude has encouraged many of our members who were spared the wrath of the storms to reassess their product, spurring many of them to greater heights.
The silver lining on the dark clouds of hurricane devastation was the fact we were not only able to rebuild, but we also were able to bolster our structures to withstand the wrath of future storms.
As we look ahead through the crystal ball to 2020, data received from CHTA members indicate we may have more to celebrate. While there are challenges and there is always the unknown, most indicators point to continued steady economic conditions in our key source markets and robust visitor expenditures.
Arrivals throughout the region, in fact, are very high and on pace for a record year in 2019. The vast majority of destinations recorded marked increases, and the Caribbean is on pace to reach its highest annual RevPAR in history in 2019.
While external factors like the global economy are key to our success, that success would not be possible without the aggressive efforts by the region’s public and private sectors over the past decade to expand and modernize airports and attract significant hotel investments – both in new and refurbished properties. We continue to see arrivals growth fuelled by accommodation disruptors in the form of vacation home rentals; this will continue to be an important part of the accommodations sector – it is ever more important therefore to ensure that it is better regulated, taxed and integrated into the collaborative efforts of all tourism industry stakeholders.
Our thoughts and best wishes for a rapid recovery go out to the people of the northern Bahamas whose lives were devastated by Hurricane Dorian in September 2019. Our sincere thanks also go out to all those who supported our efforts to ease the suffering of the islanders by giving generously to our recovery fundraising initiatives.
Through one of our support initiatives, the Caribbean Tourism Job Bank, we were pleased to see the number of organizations from areas unaffected by the storm offering jobs to some 2,500 Bahamian hotel workers who were displaced by Dorian. We are working collaboratively with our partners in The Bahamas to support their recovery with the funds which were raised.
I am also pleased to report that our CHTA Education Foundation has been organizing and offering scholarships and special assistance for the education and training of Caribbean tourism industry personnel and students pursuing tourism and hospitality careers. Over the past year, the foundation and its partners have made special efforts for students from hurricane-afflicted islands as well as focused on the critically important issue of diversity to better equip our team members to warmly welcome, respect and embrace the world.
We are committed to being leaders in this space and are happy that our efforts have begun to open doors for discussions on issues that urgently need to be addressed so that all people living in and visiting our beautiful region – irrespective of gender, sexual or religious preference – feel safe, welcomed and truly part of our Caribbean community.
I wish to thank especially Interval International and Virgin Holidays for their support over the years which has made so many of these educational initiatives a reality. I wish to encourage more of our trade partners to engage with us to see how they too can make a meaningful difference to the experience of our mutual guests.
You can sense we are going into a fruitful time for our industry so the next Caribbean Travel Marketplace, January 21-23, 2020, at the sparkling Baha Mar resort complex, is an exceptional opportunity for companies to benefit from the region’s burgeoning tourism development. The resurgence of the new product will include the Caribbean Tourism Pulse session whose speakers and interactivity will dive fearlessly into important issues. You will also hear analyses of new and emerging trends and how they affect your bottom line.
We expect a continued high level of investor interest in the Caribbean with another banner Caribbean Hotel and Resort Investment Summit (CHRIS) this May in South Florida, a Burba Hotel Network/Northstar Travel Group event which CHTA patronizes every year.
Miami in June 2020 will feature two re-energized CHTA events. You will want to hear about the improvements in the sector at the Caribbean Hospitality Industry Exchange Forum (CHIEF), as well as seize the opportunity to learn from peers and share best practices.
Taste of the Caribbean will overlap with CHIEF and serve you selections of the region’s culinary favourites prepared creatively by some of the most dazzlingly innovative chefs.
It is going to be an exciting year and we at CHTA will ensure you are kept abreast of the most important developments and how they will unfold into your world. Our streamlined secretariat can provide these services because of the dedication and hard work of our innovative staff who have my grateful thanks and admiration for jobs very well done.
I continue to encourage our members to get more engaged with your local hotel and tourism associations, to give of your time and experience to volunteer leadership, to look for young leaders and provide them with opportunities for growth and development and to actively live the #MyCHTA mantra. Our Association is made stronger by our collective input and effort and we are always stronger together.
A special note of appreciation to our Chief Operating Officer Vanessa Ledesma who has dedicated two decades of her life to improving the way we do things at CHTA. We look forward to many more years of her creativity, commitment and efficiency.
And now, may you all receive the full blessings of this, the Season of Joy. Happy Holidays and a bright and prosperous 2020!