The fifth Caribbean Week festivities in Toronto, which is organized annually by the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), brought together industry representatives to promote Caribbean travel and tourism and also celebrate the region’s cultural heritage.
CTO secretary general, Hugh Riley, says Canada continues to be a significant producer of tourism business for the Caribbean.
“The number of visitors from Canada to the Caribbean is somewhere around 2.8 million which is a very large number proportionate to this country’s population,” said Riley, a former CTO director of marketing for the Americas. “Canadians really seem to love the Caribbean and our whole purpose is to make sure that we continue to earn that loyalty and that business from Canadians.”
Riley arrived in Toronto still seething from the British government’s announcement a few days earlier that the Air Passenger Duty (APD) rates to the Caribbean will continue to be considerably higher than those to some competitor destinations.
The tax on economy long-haul flights of more than 6,000 miles will rise from US$132 to US$143 per traveller.
“We have been advocating for the redesign of the tax for quite some time now and we are extremely saddened and disappointed frankly that the UK government has made a statement that is tantamount to a slap in the face for our Caribbean people,” Riley said. “Despite all of the very favourable discussions we have had with members of the UK government in recent times, nothing has changed about the APD that is still an imposition.
“The way how the whole thing is designed discriminates against Caribbean people and that’s not all because it’s going up in 2012. We will make sure we do whatever is necessary to let our constituents understand the impact that this is having on Caribbean economies.”
The Caribbean Week celebrations started with a Diaspora Forum and concluded with a Caribbean Media Marketplace, a Media Awards luncheon and a celebration of Caribbean culture.
Kailash Maharaj, the co-editor of City Style and Living, Western Canada’s first digital lifestyle magazine, was a double-winner for a feature story – Paradise Found – that she wrote last year on Grenada.
“I am incredibly proud and honoured to be recognized in such a wonderful manner,” said the Calgary resident who won the Best Feature Article in a Consumer Magazine and Best of Show awards. “I feel that Grenada has such a depth and soul that’s priceless. There are many, many islands and they all have something beautiful and wonderful to offer. Grenada, however, has real soul.”
Grenada’s honorary consul general in Toronto, Jenny Gumbs, and the island’s tourist board sales representative, Karen Stephenson, participated in the presentations.
“We are very excited about this because every bit of publicity Grenada gets is useful,” said Gumbs. “It helps to give us more profile, which is something we need right now. It also comes at an opportune time when there will be seasonal direct flights between Toronto and Grenada.”
The new Caribbean Airlines twice weekly non-stop service begins today and ends on March 10. The flight departs Toronto at 1.55 p.m. on Thursday and Sunday.
Sunwing began a seasonal service yesterday to the Spice Island while Air Canada Vacations will fly weekly from December 24 to April 21.