Mindful that the Black and Caribbean Diaspora market represents one of the fastest growing segments in the leisure travel industry, the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) is developing concrete and specific initiatives to target this emerging market and allay concerns that this sector is being neglected.
“More ought to happen,” acknowledged CTO secretary general Hugh Riley while in Toronto recently for the third annual Caribbean Week in Canada celebrations. “A dedicated Caribbean Diaspora website is being created that will be the repository of all the kinds of information that is needed to provide information to this particular market.
“Packages have been created and incentives given for members of the Caribbean Diaspora to recommend others from within or outside their communities. There is a great deal more happening to attract the Caribbean Diaspora among member countries of the CTO.”
Caribbean Week in Canada – expanded from the previously held Caribbean Week in Toronto to include the SITV consumer travel show in Montreal – brings together the most influential policy makers, financial leaders, marketing professionals and tourism industry executives to interact and discuss tourism and investment opportunities in the Caribbean.
The event also provided a taste of the region to inspire travel and showcase its diversity.
Riley, who served as the Toronto-based Barbados Tourism Authority (BTA) senior business development manager in Canada before joining the CTO six years ago, said Canada is one of the Caribbean’s strongest markets in the wake of the global economic downturn that has severely affected several industries, including tourism.
There was a 15.3 per cent increase in arrivals in 2008 from the previous year and the total arrivals for the first six months of this year is nearly 1,792,000 which is a 7.4 per cent increase over the same period a year ago.
“Canada has been the stabilizing force for us,” said Riley, who served as the CTO’s director of marketing for the Americas and acting secretary general following the sudden death of secretary general Arley Sobers last August. “That has not only been satisfying for the Caribbean but it has been a saviour for us.”
Riley offered several reasons for the upsurge in travel to the Caribbean during the economic decline.
“There is no such thing as a Canadian not knowing about the Caribbean,” he said. “There is a long cultural, historical and familial connection between Canada and the Caribbean. Also, there has been an increase in air service, packaging, charter operation and tour operator activity in the Caribbean out of Canada than one would expect in a recession.
“That kind of confidence which the market shows is not lost on consumers. If consumers are seeing that there is this kind of confidence which the people who supply business to the region are exuding, they follow that.
“There is a great deal more that we can be doing. We have to keep the message strong and the Caribbean visible in Canada. We are not taking anything for granted.”