As we look back over 2018 and look forward to the New Year, I am reminded of the C.S. Lewis quote: “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”
Our region’s rich tourism past and our many successes have served us well, providing a sound foundation for the future.
Looking ahead, I have a real sense of optimism about our opportunities if we learn from the past, stay clearly focused on the future and appreciate the critical importance of reinventing and improving our businesses, our processes and our people. We must be nimble, adaptable and innovative in this era of constant change.
This past year reminded us of how resilient our people and our industry are, as a number of the region’s destinations and hotels bounced back from unparalleled destruction in 2017, rebuilding smarter, better and sometimes bigger. We got a peek into the future as over 5,000 new hotels rooms came online regionally in 2018 with over 25,000 more in the construction and planning stages. Existing hotels continue to invest in refurbishments and introducing new services and amenities. We witnessed an unprecedented surge in new airlift into the region, presenting more opportunities to entice travelers to our shores. Investor and government confidence in Caribbean tourism’s future was further buoyed as hundreds of millions of dollars were spent on upgraded and expanded airport facilities.
Our glass is half full. Are we pouring or drinking? How do we continually adapt in an era of accelerated change when technology, competition, consumer expectations, economic and political uncertainty along with climate change challenge us? These are all external factors over which we have little sway. Or do we?
The “abundance of opportunity” lies within ourselves. Through our companies, destination marketing organizations (DMOs), National Hotel and Tourism Associations, and regional stakeholder groups like the Caribbean Hotel Tourism Association’s (CHTA) and the Caribbean Tourism Organization, owners, operators, government partners and individuals have an even greater capacity to positively and collectively impact tourism’s future and our bottom lines. How willing are we to “give back” in order to “get back”? Are we as individuals and companies taking “ownership” in our industry by being engaged and supportive beyond the day-to-day challenges of operating our businesses?
It is amazing what can be achieved through a commitment to cooperation, collaboration, open communication and mutual respect – we have all of the necessary elements in our communities, businesses, governments and destinations to excel and to lead as the world’s most desirable tourism region.
Let us in 2019 commit to recognizing and developing talent wherever we see it; to critically assessing our processes in both the public and private sectors to make sure that they facilitate more than restrict; to using all means possible to inform and educate our people about the value and importance of tourism to our region and the critical role that they play in its success; and most importantly, to doing whatever we can to engender a greater sense of pride and care in our people, our environment and our region as a whole. There is great power in the collective. As tourism stakeholders, let’s work to better harness this.
I’m so grateful to be surrounded by a corps of volunteers regionally and locally in Barbados who lead by example, contributing their time, expertise and financial resources to address the many challenges which our industry faces. You’ve taken “ownership” and indeed, you’ve exemplified through your actions that CHTA and your local NHTA are “My CHTA” and “My NHTA”. Thank you to all of our great volunteers and supporters!
It’s this spirit of giving that helps to remove barriers to business development; advocates for policies which stimulate rather than suppress our industry’s growth and development; supports investments in our people through groups like the CHTA Education Foundation (please make your room donation now to The New York Times Travel Show auction fundraiser if you haven’t already); and supports local and regional marketing and public relations efforts to protect and enhance the local and Caribbean brands. These are matters which affect each of us and to which we have a moral and business responsibility to support.
I can only imagine what the present and future would be like if not for the work of our industry’s institutions like CHTA. This is what gives me confidence in knowing that indeed there are “far, far better things ahead”.
I look forward to seeing everyone at Caribbean Travel Marketplace and related events later this January in Montego Bay. I encourage you to register for Marketplace today if you’ve not already done so.
Best wishes for a fun and prosperous 2019!
– Patricia Affonso-Dass, president, Caribbean Hotel And Tourism Association