Director General and CEO of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA), Frank Comito, encouraged regional stakeholders to get ready for what the association believes can be an especially strong winter season. "With new routes and upgraded aircraft announcements over recent months, market-savvy hoteliers are positioned to increase occupancy and generate additional business."
Comito, whose team is preparing to host the 37th annual Caribbean Travel Marketplace, the Caribbean's largest tourism marketing event, in Montego Bay, Jamaica from January 29 to 31, 2019, said that while the 2017 storms affected year-over-year growth, with new, re-opening and upgraded hotels the region is poised for growth.
Destinations which were impacted by the 2017 hurricanes are seeing a return to pre-2017 flight levels while many other destinations in the region are seeing increased service. "We are confident that hotels participating in Marketplace this January in Jamaica will be in a great position to promote their properties, especially with the added airlift," added Comito.
The CHTA chief executive cited JetBlue Airways' continued growth into the region with additional flights and upgraded Mint service starting in early 2019. Delta Air Lines is bumping up its service to The Bahamas; Kingston, Jamaica; St. Kitts and Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Similarly, American Airlines has added capacity to Aruba, Bahamas, Bonaire, Cayman Islands, St. Kitts, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Turks and Caicos, and is increasing its service to Barbados, Curaçao, Puerto Plata and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; and St. Lucia.
Also on CHTA's radar are new Southwest flights to Cancun and the Mexican Caribbean; Grand Cayman; Punta Cana, Dominican Republic; and Turks and Caicos. The airline is also expanding its service to San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Copa Airlines, Frontier Airlines, Iberia, LATAM Airlines, Norwegian Airlines, Spirit Airlines, Sunwing, United Airlines and Virgin Atlantic are also extending their reach into the Caribbean.
Comito noted that regional carriers are also undergoing considerable expansion and some are entering into new partner agreements, helping to improve connectivity, particularly to those destinations with fewer nonstop flights. Examples include the rapid expansion of InterCaribbean Airways flights, now covering 22 cities in 13 countries; Caribbean Airlines with more than 600 weekly flights; LIAT, which is teaming up with Air Antilles and Winair; and Seaborne Airlines, which was recently acquired by Silver Airways.
These among other travel, tourism and hospitality trends will be discussed in Jamaica during Caribbean Travel Marketplace, which will attract hotel and destination representatives, including high-level executives and key decision makers; wholesalers and tour operators; online travel agencies; Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions (MICE) planners; and members of the media for several days of business meetings, including a busy program of thousands of pre-scheduled appointments to expand their businesses.
Comito explained that while demand for the region is strong, major investments in airport expansions were contributing to the growth in airlift, which bodes well for the destinations and travelers.
Airports in Antigua, Bahamas and San Juan, Puerto Rico have recently benefited from upgrades, while those in Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Curaçao and St. Maarten are under construction. Officials in Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Grenada, Haiti, Kingston, Martinique, St. Lucia and the U.S. Virgin Islands are each examining expansion plans.
Caribbean Travel Marketplace 2019 is produced by CHTA in collaboration with co-hosts Jamaica Hotel & Tourist Association, the Jamaica Tourist Board and the Jamaica Ministry of Tourism. It is the leading event in the Caribbean tourism industry where more than 1,000 delegates from 26 Caribbean countries meet with buyers from over 20 markets.
This year's host sponsors are Interval International, Jamaica Hotel & Tourist Association, Jamaica Tourist Board, JetBlue Vacations and MasterCard, while Platinum sponsors include Adara, AMResorts , Figment Design, Marketplace Excellence, OBMI, Sojern, STR, Travelzoo, and the United States Virgin Islands. Gold sponsors are Best Western International, Condé Nast Traveler, Delta Air Lines, Flip.to, HCP Media, Northstar Media, Prevue magazine, Rainmaker, Recommend magazine, SiteMinder, Simpleview, The New York Times, Travalliance Media, Travel Relations and TravPRO Mobile.
The 2019 event is expected to have an increase in the number of buyers and suppliers and exciting new activities that will strengthen the connectivity between industry stakeholders.