The transfer of the chairmanship of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) from Barbados to the Cayman Islands during CTO’s business meetings on Grand Cayman this week registered something notable and positive: the future of the region is in excellent hands.
After a couple of years of lockdowns and the absence of in-person deliberations, it was incredibly heartwarming to witness two young leaders – Senator Lisa Cummins, Barbados’ Minister of Tourism and International Transport, and Kenneth Bryan, the Cayman Islands Minister of Tourism and Transport – discuss the business of the region with passion and pride.
Tourism is the Caribbean’s main foreign exchange generator and contributor to Gross Domestic Product. As the global economic environment continues to shift, renewed thinking will be required not only to meet the needs of today’s travellers, but also to safeguard economic prosperity and drive quality of life improvements for the region’s people.
It was refreshing to hear the thoughtfulness and solution-oriented perspectives of Minister Cummins, Minister Bryan and other government representatives, the likes of Edmund Bartlett, Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism, and of course, the region’s youth, who debated tourism issues during an informative forum. A special note of congratulations must go to the very impressive J’nae Brathwaite of Tobago, who won the CTO’s Tourism Youth Congress, which was sponsored by Sandals Barbados and the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism.
In her winning presentation on Experiential Tourism, the 17-year-old “Junior Secretary for Tourism” pointed to immersive museums, digital marketing of user-generated content, and augmented reality tours as initiatives which could further market Tobago and enhance the visitor experience. The conference heard numerous perspectives on improving tourism in the region, including addressing issues such as taxation, air connectivity, multi-destination travel, tapping emerging markets, and leveraging technology to improve efficiencies.
Strategy, consensus and action are now required to take the region forward. This is no easy task, given the divergent views across our regional governments as well as the private sector, whose perspectives are also incredibly important given the critical role of business in driving the economic engine. CTO, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the Cayman Islands Government are to be commended for producing informative meetings, and special kudos go to the hardworking teams at the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism and the Ministry of Tourism and Transport for raising the hospitality bar as they extended “Caymankind” welcomes to delegates at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman.
As Minister Bryan leads the CTO’s Ministerial Council, he will be ably assisted not only by his minister colleagues, but also by accomplished director of tourism Rosa Harris, who will chair CTO’s Board of Directors. From all appearances, the Cayman Islands leadership is serious about culture change, cooperation, coordination, and meeting targets to take the region forward.
“As the new chair of the Caribbean Tourism Organization I am committed to creating many more opportunities for candid discussions, by bringing the stakeholders together and finding the best ways forward,” Minister Bryan promised.
The region’s tourism leaders and stakeholders will convene next at the highly anticipated Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association’s (CHTA) Caribbean Travel Marketplace, to be held in San Juan, Puerto Rico next month.