Sunday, 27 December 2015 14:12

Growth Through Innovation

Written by  Melanie Reffes
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The pre-eminent tourism gathering in the Caribbean, State of the Industry (SOTIC), organized by the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) in collaboration with Curacao’s Ministry of Economic Development and the Curacao Tourism Board brought together tourism decision-makers, hotel and airline executives and travel agents. At the World Trade Center in Willemstad; capital city of Curacao, the conference theme Caribbean Tourism: Growth through Innovation was an attention-grabber with a host of seminars and keynotes that excited an enthusiastic crowd.

Open Skies
JetBlue launched their Caribbean service in 2004 and today flies to 28 airports from Bermuda to Barbados and Grand Cayman to Grenada. The NY based carrier schedules 150 flights a day to the Caribbean and Latin America from the US, accounting for one-third of the carrier's capacity. "I don't think anyone could have predicted how quickly our Caribbean growth would accelerate," said Robin Hayes, CEO. Typically offering fair fares and more perks than the legacy carriers, the airline is a major player in the skies. New service this year includes a third weekly flight from New York (JFK) to Curacao (CUR), increased flights from Boston, New York and Fort Lauderdale to Haiti (PAP), additional flights to Aruba (AUA) and daily nonstop service between Barbados (BGI) and Fort Lauderdale that will start in April. "JetBlue will continue its Caribbean expansion into the foreseeable future." Hayes added. "We have ten new aircraft entering our fleet this year, and in 2017 we have another 10 coming. We need places to point all those planes and a lot of them are coming south to the Caribbean."

Island Life
In Curacao, arrivals are up 21 percent with New York maintaining top spot as supplier of tourists to the island. "Planes never land with less than 90 percent of the seats filled," smiled Andre Rojer, manager of marketing, North America. Popular also with cruise shippers, construction has started on a second pier to keep up with increasing cruise traffic. The new Tula Pier will be built west of St. Anna Bay, close to the mega terminal currently in operation.
Near the airport, the island's first winery is open on two acres of land with bottles available this year.
For fans of duty-free shopping, a new upscale mall is open between Willemstad and the airport. Designed in a fish-shape, Sambil Curacao is super-sized with 150 stores, eight movie theaters and four restaurants.
Courtyard by Marriott will open next year with 177 rooms. Close to the cruise ship terminal, the resort will include three restaurants, casino and meeting space. Also new, Bayside Boutique Hotel in Willemstad is open with 36 swanky rooms, tennis courts, dive center and children's playground.
Mark your calendars for Curacao Carnival in February with parades and partying from sunrise to sunset. For music fans, the Blue Seas Festival May 6 - 7 will heat up the island with a roster of jazz and blues.
In Trinidad, sixteen ships will bring 30,000 cruise visitors to the island this year. "Tourism ambassadors will be strategically positioned at the cruise ship terminal and in the streets of the capital city to assist passengers with maps and information on points of interest," said Shamfa Cudjoe, minister of tourism. Top spots include the northern mountain range, Maracas Beach and Caroni Bird Sanctuary.
New on the hotel horizon in Anguilla, The Reef by CuisinArt in Rendezvous Bay is open with four low rise buildings showcasing seaside suites.
For the upscale traveler, Kishti on Meads Bay are three villas; each with a home theater, heated infinity pool, gym and unrivalled service.
Slated to open this month, Zemi Beach House will be the first luxury resort on the east end of the island. Amenities include two restaurants, spa, two pools, Kids Club and Rum Bar.
For music fans, the annual reggae blowout called Moonsplash runs this year from April 21 to 24 at the beachfront Dune Preserve.
Martinique's hospitality sector is getting a boost this winter with an impressive increase in nonstop airlift from the US. Nonstop flights will increase 193% this winter as a result of direct flights from New York, Boston, and Baltimore/Washington, DC via Norwegian Air and increased American Airlines flights from Miami to Fort-de-France. The Isle of Flowers is also expected to welcome twenty cruise ships including Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas. "With these latest projections, it's safe to say that holidaying in Martinique is not only on the rise, but is blossoming beautifully like the fragrant exotic flowers emblematic of our island," said Muriel Wiltord, director of Americas for the The Martinique Promotion Bureau.
Tourism in Barbados has enjoyed a spike with a seven percent increase in airlift from the US. "We are enjoying favorable global economic conditions in several key source markets, the price of oil is down and travelers are gaining greater confidence and booking further in advance," noted William Griffith, CEO, Barbados Tourism Marketing, Inc. (BTMI). Sandals Barbados will add 220 rooms this year, Sugar Bay Hotel (formerly Amaryllis) and The Sands (formerly Sandy Beach) will also open their doors as all-inclusives, adding 300 new rooms to the island inventory. "In 2016, Barbados will be a hub for visitors as we will raise the standard of every event in line with our golden celebrations to mark our 50th year of independence," added William Griffith. "During the year, the island is offering chances to win free vacations, free destination weddings and incentives for top-performing travel agents."
State of the Industry 2016 will take place in October in Barbados.

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