06 DEC 2017: The Caribbean is open for business and the member countries who were affected by the hurricanes earlier this year are on the road to recovery. That was the strong message conveyed by Secretary General Hugh Riley with the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) at a press conference held during Caribbean Week last month as he outlined a 6.4 percent growth in Canadian visitor arrivals for the first quarter this year compared to the same period last year.

The uptick he noted, was due to economic stability in the market, expansion of flights from major carriers, and new marketing campaigns.

Overall, the Canadian market is expected to grow this year despite the hurricanes which impacted about 25 percent of the member countries.

The Secretary General cited the Conference Board of Canada which will be releasing final numbers that are expected to indicate the overall impact of the hurricanes is "expected to be minimal" when it comes to Canadian visitors travelling to the region.

While the hurricanes affected a few of the CTO member countries, trade media heard that the larger impact affecting the region stems in the lack of understanding in the Caribbean's geography. "Dominica to Grenada is the same distance as Toronto to Detroit," said Riley, and described the distance between Turks and Caicos to Curacao as " more than twice the distance of Toronto to Montreal."

Flight cancellations from the US, a popular connectivity hub for flights to the Caribbean, also affected the region, said Riley, but, "Some 75 percent of the Caribbean was completely unscathed by the hurricanes," and added those Caribbean countries affected by the hurricane, "are coping and open for business although some not at full capacity."

2018 Year of Rejuvenation and Wellness

As in previous years, the CTO has highlighted a sector in the tourism industry and for 2018 has officially launched the Year of Rejuvenation and Wellness.

"Wellness and rejuvenation are important aspects in the Caribbean," Riley said, adding that the options are virtually endless from beach workouts and yoga retreats to wellness resorts and spas.

"The notion of being rejuvenated in our part of the world is one more reason to let us pamper you in 2018."

He concluded, "The best way to help the Caribbean is to visit the Caribbean."

Here's a snapshot of member countries open for your business:

Cuba

In the wake of Mother Nature's wrath, a happy accident has resulted in this sun-kissed island nation.

"Our beaches have gained so much more sand and most of them are 25 percent bigger," says Eloy Govea, director for the Cuba Tourist Board in Canada describing the post effect of the recent hurricanes.

Govea further noted Canada remains Cuba's number 1 market by a considerable margin. His winter forecast is another plus.

"We're hitting again in November the 1-million passenger mark for the seventh consecutive year," he says adding since 2011, Cuba has welcomed over 1-million Canadians in November alone.

St. Vincent and The Grenadines

"We were one of the 75 percent regions that were not affected by the hurricanes," says Cecil McKie, Minister of Tourism, Sports and Culture for St. Vincent and The Grenadines.

He further notes his Caribbean country, which is comprised of 32 islands and cays, responded quickly to repairs and by supporting its neighbouring countries with various relief efforts.

On the cruise season, St. Vincent and The Grenadines is forecasting its biggest cruise season this year due to increased marketing which is expected to result in a 23 percent increase in calls over last year. The cruise season runs November-April.

St. Vincent welcomes MSC Fantasia, the 3,900 passenger cruise ship with 1,300 crew, which will be making 10 calls to the destination. The MV Britannia, a 3,600 passenger ship with 1350 crew also has 10 calls to this Caribbean cruise port.

"When the ships come the whole island feels that, we come together and welcome everyone," said McKie.

Jamaica

The island big on all-inclusives like RIU Hotels and Resorts considered one of Jamaica's top sellers for Canadian sunseeking clients has lots of other room inventory worth looking at.

There's the resurgence in multigenerational travel to Jamaica. But unlike the family style of all-inclusive experiences, it seems some grandparents want to spend time with their grandkids in quainter settings like small hotels and villas.

"Grandparents want that time with their grandkids but they don't want that all-inclusive schedule," says Racquel Queensborough, business development manager with the Jamaica Tourist Board on the villa option which has full staff plus market outings are possible with the cook.

Two properties that fit the bill: Hermosa Cove, Jamaica's villa resort and the luxurious Half Moon, a favourite beach hideaway.

Montserrat

Monsterrat has been described as a true vacation spot.

It is often nicknamed, "The Pompeii of the Caribbean" for its devastating volcanic eruptions in 1997 which undeniably has created a whole different product.

But it's quiet. There are no big chain hotels at this tiny Caribbean island, home to only 5,000 residents.

What's its other charm?

"Because it is not big it doesn't push you to do something," says Raja Kadri, economic adviser in Montserrat who was a representative from the Premiere's office. "So, if your biggest worry is to get up in the morning and figure out which side of the pool you want to be lying on - that should be your biggest worry."

Judging by the room inventory, my guess is you'd want this pool dilemma while staying at the luxurious landmark property, the Olveston House.

In the 70s music legends like Elton John, The Rolling Stones, and Paul McCartney visited. That's because in 1977 Sir George Martin opened up the ultimate get-away-from-it-all-recording studio, AIR Studios, a studio in Montserrat. Sadly, Hurricane Hugo devastated the island in 1989 and the studio was forced to close.

On the other hand, clients can still roll out the beach towel at the Olveston.

After all, the Caribbean is open for business.

 

author

Ilona Kauremszky

A regular contributor to Travel Industry Today, Ilona is a prize winning journalist whose writing pursuits have taken her around the globe.

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