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Caribbean Must Stand Out from the Tourism Crowd


Oct. 24, 2005 — Tourism departments could do better in marketing the Caribbean as a top destination spot, according to Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, secretary general of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO).
Vanderpool-Wallace was the featured speaker at the opening ceremonies for the 28th annual Caribbean Tourism Conference, held Friday at the Marriot Frenchman’s Reef Hotel.
Addressing representatives from various Caribbean principalities, along with tourism agents and media members from all over the world, Vanderpool-Wallace said globalization is taking business away from the Caribbean. Trips to Europe and other foreign countries are becoming more popular, he said, attracting more visitors every year.
In addition, recent news reports about crime and other incidents in the Caribbean have contributed to the development of a "bad reputation" for the region.
In relation to the U.S. Virgin Islands, Pamela Richards, the territory’s tourism commissioner, said media coverage of these "isolated occurrences," specifically the June murders of two tourists on St. Thomas and the disappearance of an American student in Aruba, has created a stigma for those considering a trip to the Virgin Islands.
To combat the problems, Vanderpool-Wallace said the CTO is working on a new advertising campaign, melding all 34 Caribbean locales into one brand. Called "One Caribbean," the strategy will include the active marketing of Caribbean products across the world, a new Website where potential visitors can access information for all Caribbean destinations, and a logo, which will appear in all Caribbean advertisements.
Richards also stated a memorandum of understanding between the Caribbean Tourism Organization and the Caribbean Hotel Association was signed over the weekend to further promote the image of the entire region. Cooperation, she said, would ultimately pave the road to success for tourism in the Caribbean.
A coalition formed between the Department of Tourism and local law enforcement officials will also help to keep things safe for visitors coming to the territory, Richards said.
To support statements made by Vanderpool-Wallace that tourism should be used as economic development tool for the Caribbean, Gov. Charles W. Turnbull said this year has been a "banner year" for the V.I. Department of Tourism with advances being made on St. Thomas and St. Croix.
The expansion of the cruise ship terminal in Christiansted, the upgrading of port facilities in Frederiksted, and the construction of a new hotel, casino and convention center on the island to promote cultural and sports tourism, will all bring investment to St. Croix, Turnbull said.
For St. Thomas, Turnbull said the new Yacht Haven Grande marina, as well as improvements made to the docking facilities in Havensight and the Red Hook ferry terminal, will help market the island as a top destination.
While encouraging the projects, Vanderpool-Wallace said the CTO is doing even more to enhance the Caribbean. Television advertisements from the islands of Barbados and Belize were shown during his presentation incorporating the "One Caribbean" logo.
A mockup of the Website page for "One Caribbean" was also shown, with all links to the region’s locales, travel services, and shopping venues. Vanderpool-Wallace said the idea came from popular magazine spreads showing the world’s "Top 10 Destination Spots."
Vanderpool-Wallace said he also plans to put a spin on the "Intel Inside" campaign. Pitching "Caribbean Inside" to audience members, Vanderpool-Wallace said tourism can be enhanced through consolidated efforts of the region’s public and private sectors, as well as cooperation from all sections of the Caribbean Diaspora.
Stocking Caribbean hotels with local fruit, for example, will enhance promotion from the inside. Holding Caribbean trade and cultural shows, interacting with the economies of neighboring islands and communities will also contribute to internal enhancement, he said.
There should be an emphasis on "equality service." This means training more locals to be in the tourism industry, paying them higher salaries so they continue to interact well with customers, putting people on the front line who understand and know the Caribbean as well as what visitors expect when they come here.
Getting Wired
The new Website will help put all these ideas together. If potential visitors were to click on the site, for example, they would first listen to some Caribbean music, be introduced to Caribbean products, perhaps order a copy of Caribbean Life magazine to peruse more information about the region.
Then they could connect to Caribbean agents, book their travel and accommodations, and possibly talk to other guests staying in the Caribbean about their experiences.
Once in the Caribbean, people will hear the same music they heard playing on the Website at the airport or cruise ship terminal, be greeted by name by a taxi driver waiting to pick them up and be taken to the hotel where there would be a personal welcome message from that destination’s tourism commissioner.
Upon departure, that same individual will receive a thank you message from the Minister of the Caribbean, asking them to come back again.
"The great thing about this is that all the information you need can be sent over the Internet to our tourism-based organizations, and the system can’t be copied easily," Vanderpool-Wallace said. "This is how we market the Caribbean experience; cater to our visitors, so they could recommend this destination to others. The music, the service, will create a memory of the visit for them, and that’ s how our destination will remain alive."
"We’ll know we’re succeeding when we stop charging departure tax, and start charging admission," he added.
Represented at the conference Friday were the Cayman Islands, Curacao, Dominica, Guadelupe, Montserrat, Guyana, and Venezuela, among others. Members of Conde Nast Traveler Magazine Essay Contest were also present, along with Travel and Leisure’s Youth Congress.
The conference will end on Oct. 26.

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