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Carib stakeholders warned to stay abreast of world trends

Published:Thursday | September 11, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer

WESTERN BUREAU: With the uptick in tourist arrivals globally, Caribbean stakeholders are being warned to increase their efforts in order to maintain pace with the rest of the world.

Speaking ahead of the upcoming State of the Tourism Industry Conference, scheduled to kick off in St Thomas, United States Virgin Islands, next week, Hugh Riley, secretary general of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, said steering a mature brand towards major changes was among the topics to take centrestage at the confab.

The conference has as its theme, 'Realizing the Vision: Positioning Caribbean Tourism for Major Change'.

Riley's comments comes as reports from the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) indicate that international tourism remained strong in the first four months of 2014, as arrivals worldwide grew by 5 per cent, the same rate as during the full year 2013. The Caribbean's biggest competitors, Asia and the Pacific, Europe and Africa are showing significant improvement, said statistics garnered by the UNWTO's Tourism Barometre.

"Clearly, arrivals to the Caribbean, which remains the most tourism-dependent region in the world, are climbing back to pre-recession figures, giving us reason for optimism, but we have to be completely aware of what is happening in the rest of the world," he posited.

He reiterated that the region did not function in a vacuum, "and we have to accept the fact that we must not just keep our heads above water, but we have to be outdoing the competition".

He spoke of the pivotal role featured speakers such as Alex Zozaya, CEO of Apple Leisure Group, one of the largest supplier of people to the region, and Gloria Guevara Manzo, former Secretary of Tourism, Mexico, will play at the conference.

"It is critically important to hear from the people who are driving business to us, and we most especially want to hear from some of the people who have done some of the things we ought to do as well," said Riley.

According to him, in Manzo's case particularly, tackling directly this huge major change has been one of her areas of expertise. "It is going to be extremely interesting to hear what she has to say in terms of steering a major brand or rather a mature brand towards major change."