Oct. 13, 2003 – St. Thomas is the center of the Caribbean as far as the leisure-travel business this week, as the territory hosts the 26th annual conference of the Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organization.
A total of 578 participants had registered as of Monday afternoon for the event, which is taking place mainly at Marriott Frenchman's Reef Beach Resort. On Monday through Wednesday, CTO officials and delegates and participating travel industry professionals are holding a variety of business meetings. On Thursday through Saturday, general sessions and workshops on a variety of travel-related topics are scheduled.
Interspersed are working breakfasts, luncheons, dinners and cocktail receptions, and here and there an opportunity for the off-island visitors to take in some comparative sight-seeing. Travel agents, travel media people and young people from throughout the Caribbean who are attending the conference will have their own schedules of activities.
The theme of this year's conference is "Recovery and Growth in a Fiercely Competitive Environment." Delegates will be setting their inter-island rivalries aside to focus on a regional approach to competing more effectively for tourism dollars, Euros, and other currencies with destinations elsewhere in the world.
The CTO is primarily an association of the region's government tourism ministries — or, in the case of the Virgin Islands, its Tourism Department. It also has carrier, allied, affiliate and associate members who represent various aspects of the tourism industry. The hospitality sector — hotels, food and beverage purveyors and other allied members — have a separate organization, the Caribbean Hotel Association, which is based in Puerto Rico. The CHA also reaches out to other travel industry professionals — tour promoters, travel agents, airlines, cruise lines and government tourism agencies.
The V.I. government as the official host of the conference has been doing its best to spruce up St. Thomas in preparation for the arrival of visitors whose job it is to attract tourists to their own shores. The Governor's Abandoned Car and Beautification Task Force has been tagging and towing derelict vehicles, and Public Works Department crews were on the job on Sunday tidying up the areas around public trash bins on the island's North Side.
Monday's schedule opened with a mid-day luncheon and afternoon meeting for tourism directors and committee members, followed by a cocktail reception and dinner.
Tuesday has breakfast meetings of the CTO executive committee and of ministers, tourism directors, committee members and chapter presidents. From 9 to 11 a.m., a meeting of the Cruise Committee will be hosted by the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association, which just held its annual meeting on St. Martin.
In the afternoon, the Marketing Committee and the Chapter Advisory Council will hold meetings. In the evening, the ministers, tourism directors and committee members will be off to The Pointe at Villa Olga for a dinner. Meanwhile, travel agents and chapter presidents will head to the St. Peter Great House for a orientation, motivational presentation and reception.
On Wednesday, there will be meetings of the ministers and chapters presidents, a board of directors meeting all afternoon and dinner at the Inn at Blackbeard's Castle. Meanwhile, travel agents get a full-day "product tour program" and the travel news media get morning and afternoon briefings.
Thursday brings the conference opening ceremony and morning general session on "Stronger Together: Cooperative Strategies for Recovery and Growth." These will take place at the University of the Virgin Islands Sports and Fitness Center. There'll be a workshop at Government House, and a Travel and Leisure Youth Congress Workshop at the Reef in the afternoon, following by another general session at the hotel on "Positioning the Caribbean Product for Recovery and Growth." The West Indian Co. is hosting a reception for delegates in the evening.
Friday gets going with a breakfast for government, carrier, allied, affiliate and associate CTO members, and another for travel agents and the media. Then, at 9:30 a.m., the professionals will sit back and listen to what the younger generation has to say. Twenty-six young people, the finalists from each CTO member state and territory in this year's Condé Nast Traveler "My Caribbean" Essay Contest, will be honored for their 500-word commentaries. The top prize winners will be announced, and they will then read their essays.
The topic for this year's competition, the 11th sponsored by the travel magazine: "How traveling to your country could build a bridge of peace, considering the current state of the world." The program is administered through the school systems in cooperation with the tourism and education ministries of the various member nations. The grand prize winner will receive a $2,000 scholarship, and the winning essay will be published in a future issue of the magazine. Each of two runners-up will receive a $500 scholarship.
For delegates, there will be a workshop after that on "Getting on Board: The Cruise Industry Weighs in on Recovery and Growth," and one in the afternoon on "Information Technology as a Tourism Builder." For travel agents, there will be a morning motivational workshop on "Developing a Marketing Strategy that Works" and an afternoon of "spotlight presentations."
Saturday's opener is the "Great Caribbean Travel Game" breakfast followed by a Travel and Leisure Youth Congress delegates' meeting. For delegates, there'll be a workshop on "Event Marketing: A Catalyst for Tourism Growth," and for travel agents, a motivational presentation on "See It, Feel It, Sell It!" After lunch, delegates have the afternoon free. The conference will conclude with a "Star-Spangled Gala" at the Reef.
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name, and the city and state/country or island where you reside.
Publisher's note : Like the St. Thomas Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much — and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice … click here.