11 FEB 2019: Torrential rain for much of the week didn’t dampen the spirits of delegates at the recent 37th annual Caribbean Tourism Marketplace.  After all, there was awareness that much of Ontario was digging out from a foot of snow while the US mid-west was trapped in a polar vortex that made it colder even than Canada. These are both situations that unfailingly make tourism types smile as they imagine winter-weary consumers rushing to their travel agents to book a seat out.

Hosted by Jamaica at the Montego Bay Convention Centre this year, the Caribbean Hotel Tourism Association’s (CHTA) largest tourism marketing event welcomed 576 supplier delegates from 147 companies and 20 countries including Canada. Notably, China sent its first-ever contingent of buyers, prompting suppliers and government representatives to ponder a pending influx of visitors from the Asian nation (and the ability to meet their unique needs). Canadian attendees included tourism execs, buyers and media (including Travel Industry Today).

Beyond the requisite trade show, highlights of the event included the unveiling of the Jamaica-led Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre (GTRCM). A first-of-its-kind tourism resource it is dedicated to policy-relevant research and analysis on destination preparedness, management, and recovery from disruptions or crises (such as hurricanes) that impact tourism and threaten economies and livelihoods globally.

Running concurrently was the 2nd Global Conference on Jobs and Inclusive Growth: Small and Medium Tourism Enterprises.

Of course, there were also receptions, evening galas, and parties, including a Sandals beach bash on the final night when the rain had finally let up.

For its part, Jamaica was thrilled to showcase the destination to a global audience, the fifth time it has done so.

“As the host destination, we could not be more delighted by the tremendous success of this year’s CHTA Caribbean Travel Marketplace,” said Donovan White, Jamaica’s Director of Tourism. “It was a privilege to welcome so many industry professionals, particularly the new buyers, for a week of networking to cultivate new ways to showcase tourism in the Caribbean.”

It was a message echoed by CHTA president Patricia Affonso-Dass, who hailed the diversity of the region, its incredible natural beauty and people as core strengths as she called for the Caribbean to be better known as the most welcoming region in the world.

In a world that often appears dominated by divisiveness, fear and uncertainty, Affonso-Dass said the Caribbean region needs "to continue to stand strong and united, to be synonymous with a genuine welcome, an authentic experience and excellent service delivered with soul and pride."

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Michael Baginski

Editor at Large, Mike Baginski is well known and well respected within the industry across Canada, the US, in the Caribbean, Mexico and numerous other destinations outside North America.

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