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Regional tourism tapping new opportunities

Tourism industry experts at the 16th annual Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Investment Conference held in Puerto Rico last week highlighted how Caribbean countries are being proactive to minimize the impact of economic decline by tapping into non-traditional and niche markets. 

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TheBahamasInvestor.com
Thursday, May 3, 2012
Thursday, May 3, 2012

San Juan, Puerto Rico–The Caribbean has traditionally eyed North America as its target market, with the Eastern Caribbean attracting visitors from Europe, particularly the United Kingdom.Hugh Riley

With economies from these target markets in a downturn, industry leaders attending a recent regional tourism conference last week highlighted how they were being proactive to minimize the impact of these changes by tapping into non-traditional and niche markets.

Tourism is a vital part of the livelihood of the Caribbean. The industry welcomes 24 million stay-over visitors to the region annually. In some countries it contributes as much as 75 per cent to the gross domestic product (GDP).

“Shocks throughout the industry tend to reverberate more severely in the Caribbean than anywhere else,” says Hugh Riley (right), secretary general of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO). “Not surprisingly, any addition or reduction of investment opportunities in the Caribbean region is a matter that gets the attention of decision makers at the highest levels throughout the region.”


Riley’s comments came against the backdrop of the 16th annual Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Investment Conference (CHTIC)–a forum which provides delegates with the latest statistics, analysis predictions and projections for the Caribbean’s tourism industry–held in Puerto Rico last week.

Enrique de Marchena Kaluche“What we have done better in the last five years is to diversify the market and diversify the product,” said Enrique de Marchena Kaluche (left), founder and managing partner of the law firm De Marchena Kaluche and Associates.

Over the last 25 years Kaluche has counseled and represented many tourism projects, hotel chains, tour operators, airlines and theme parks in the Dominican Republic.

As a panelist in the session tackling target markets and tapping into new opportunities, Kaluche says the Dominican Republic has witnessed major changes to its target market.

“Just six, seven years ago Europe represented at that time more than 50 per cent of the tourism we receive,” Kaluche said.

“Today North America is the one that represents 55 per cent. South America and in particular Brazil and Argentine is helping us a lot with the European markets Colin Jordanthat are declining in particular in the case of the Dominican Republic, Germany has been declining.”

Meantime, Barbados is looking to develop niche markets, according to Colin Jordan (right), business development manager of Mango Bay Hotel and president of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association.

“We recognize the need to change because the industry is changing and changing quite rapidly,” said Jordan.

“We are looking at sports as a niche that will grow our visitor intake into the country. We are also looking at medical tourism.”

Jordan said education is another niche the country looks to make greater strides. The intention of the present administration is to develop its University of West Indies facilities in order to attract potential students from outside the Caribbean.

Meanwhile, Puerto Rico is working hard to maintain its target market, while broadening its reach into new markets in the US and Europe.

Nicole Rodriguez“We have been able to capitalize on Puerto Rico’s duality as a US destination both as Spanish and English speaking destination in the Caribbean,” said Nicole Rodriguez (left), chief marketing officer of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company. “This duality has not only helped us in Europe but also Latin America which is a market we still have opportunities to tap into. In Europe we’ve seen many great strides particularly in the UK and in Germany.”

By year’s end the tourism company hopes to announce new air arrivals to Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Columbia and Chile.

For its part, The Bahamas officially opened this year its new ultra-modern $30-million Thomas A Robinson National Stadium, a gift from the People’s Republic of China. The stadium is the flagship structure of the Queen Elizabeth Sports Centre redevelopment project, which represents the single largest investment in sports development in the history of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.

The opening of the new stadium placed The Bahamas on the map in terms of sports tourism, said Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham. He has promised to develop a Sports Tourism Encouragement Act if his government wins a second term in office.

A new Copa Airlines service between Panama City and Nassau has underpinned growth in visitor arrivals from Latin America, according to the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation (MOTA).

MOTA estimates that in its first year of operation the Copa flights, which launched in the fourth quarter of 2011, will bring more than 14,500 visitors to The Bahamas and create more than $7 million in hotel room revenues. In total, it is expected to plough more than $17 million into the country’s economy.

tblair@dupuch.com

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