CTO State of the Industry Conference scheduled for September in Marigot

POSTED: 05/20/11 12:55 PM

Hugh Riley: “Recession has gone but profits are not back yet”

MARIGOT – The Caribbean Tourism Organization CTO will hold its State of the Industry Conference from September 14 to September 17 in St. Martin, Secretary General Hugh Riley announced yesterday during a press conference at the Tourist Bureau Marigot. The conference will attract an estimated 300 participants, but also media attention from the wider Caribbean, the United States and Europe.

In the presence of Tourist Bureau president Ida Zin-Ka-Leu and General Manager Silviane John, and Dutch side marketing manager Edward Dest, Riley said that that the effect of the economic downturn requires innovative ways to generate revenue in the tourism industry. “By the end of 2010 the number of arrivals over the year had increased by 6 percent, but revenue lagged behind,” he said.

Riley said that, while the Caribbean attracted 23.1 million stay-over tourists in 2010, revenue disappointingly matched the numbers of 2004. “This means that our industry had to do all kinds of things to convince people to come to the Caribbean,” he said. “Figures for the first quarter of this year indicated that revenue is still lagging.”

With the industry under pressure to bring their rates back to the pre-crisis levels there is a need to use resources in the smartest way possible,” Riley said. “The recession has gone, but the profits have not come back yet,” he noted. “The public and private sector must find ways of combining our strengths and using our resources to the smartest advantage.”

One of the ways to achieve this, Riley said, is to create events “that allow us to come together in a single place to share best practices, to learn from each other, to implement programs that will excite consumers, and to develop solutions that will place our industry on the path of sustainable growth.”

One of these events is the State of the Industry Conference. It is no coincidence that this event will take place in Saint Martin, because the French side holds the vice presidency for the French speaking islands on the Executive Council of the CTO. The director of tourism is on the board of directors of the CTO.

“Having the State of the Industry Conference in Saint Martin will allow us to demonstrate the world via the regional and international press and social media what collaboration and creativity can produce,” Riley said. “It will give the residents of this island a chance to realize just how much the rest of us admire you for what you have achieved here. It will also allow us to create a forum for some of our industry’s sharpest minds to analyze the factors that have influenced the state of our industry and to take an informed peek into the future.”

Tourism Bureau President Ida Zin-Ka-Leu said that the location for the conference is still under discussion. She declined to answer the question whether the conference would take place on the French side or on the Dutch side of the island.

Riley indicated that collaboration between the two sides of the island is important, and he was rather amazed to hear after the press conference that the French side had just introduced a fee for Dutch-side taxi drivers to operate on the French side.

Asked about the joint promotion of the Caribbean as one tourism destination, Riley said that the Caribbean Tourism Development Corporation will meet next week and take a look at the future. The CTO has long pushed for a joint marketing fund. “Our goal is to create a sustainable and competitive fund to market the Caribbean effectively,” he said.

While that fund is in the making, the CTO is not sitting around idle. “We are using currently other means to promote the Caribbean, for instance by organizing events that attract media attention. The Caribbean Week in New York takes place from June 5 to June 11, and Saint Martin is involved in that event.”

Riley said that the State of the Industry Conference in September is not designed as a closed door meeting. “We want the local community involved, to let them know that something important is happening in their country. There are career opportunities in tourism for the youth. This conference will be a magnet to attract everybody’s attention. Tourism is everyone’s business.”


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