'No time for complacency' - Sandals CEO urges creativity for tourism sector in new media world
Even with tourist arrivals to the Caribbean remaining strong, the region is being warned not to embrace complacency, particularly in a world of new media.
"The explosion of technology has made the world a very small place. Exposure through social media is revealing a truth we can't ignore: there are many beautiful beaches in the world, and not all of them are in the Caribbean," keynote speaker at the State of the Tourism Industry Conference Adam Stewart warned delegates.
The event, now on at the Hilton Barbados, has registered its largest contingent since its inception in 2012. At least one prime minister, a premier, several tourism ministers, head of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation Taleb Rifai and technocrats, and private-sector officials are in attendance.
"We have got to get creative. Complacency in a new media world is not sustainable," the young chief executive officer of Sandals and Beaches resorts told the gathering.
Echoing sentiments that many in the tourist industry have been pondering, Stewart said things were moving rapidly. "We cannot remain content when our customers are not. They are changing. I know it and you know it."
He argued that while the United States continued to be the bread basket for many in the region, the American traveller was evolving. "They have more options. They are more sophisticated travel consumers, who, across age and wage, yearn for authenticity and experience," he noted.
Stewart cautioned that the baby boomers, the generation with the time and money, were being courted by destinations all around the world.
"Make no mistake," he warned, "Our competition is making an impact."
Research from organisations such as the well-respected Virtuoso says Italy, for example, is at the top of its international destinations that travellers are booking this fall. This is followed by France, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Spain, Mexico, China, Australia, New Zealand, and Israel.
The Caribbean, which will welcome some 30 million visitors by year end, was not mentioned in the research.
According to Stewart, reports from American Express Travel indicates that year over year travel by Americans to Japan has grown by a whopping 66 per cent.
It must be noted that the US remains the Caribbean's number one source market, receiving over 55 per cent of its business from that region.
It is these facts and more that make the young CEO optimistic about the future of Caribbean tourism.
"There is a resolve in the air and a spirit of collaboration between the public and private sector that is sparking new ideas and new solutions," he stated, adding that the real roll-up-your-sleeves teamwork has to take place between the two sectors.