The Caribbean Tourism Organisation Chapter UK & Europe is planning a series of events to help its members engage more closely with the UK travel trade after its third successful Caribbean Showcase held in London in September.
In November, a CTO roadshow will visit the north of England, and it will be in the Channel Islands in December. In February, the CTO Chapter will hold an immersive training event for travel agents with dozens of suppliers.
Director of the CTO Chapter Florian Valmy-Devillers said its aim is to help its growing membership interact more closely with the travel trade. Most Caribbean destinations benefitted from increased visitation from individual European countries in the first quarter of 2023, and the Chapter’s ultimate goal is to keep the Caribbean top-of-mind for the travel trade, media and consumers in the UK & European markets.
Its third Caribbean Showcase brought together 75 participants, with 10 Tourist Boards, several private sector partners and a growing number of selected buyers. The event has become a firm fixture in the annual calendar since its launch in London in 2021, with the number of delegates expected to reach 100 next year.
“We are providing a platform for public and private members to interact with the travel trade in the UK and Europe,” said Florian.
“Our objective with the Showcase is to establish a platform where both public and private members can engage with the travel industry in the UK and Europe,” he added.
“We aim to empower our members by giving them a voice and generating fresh opportunities for engagement with buyers. Our commitment is to ensure that every member has a chance to connect with tour operators and airlines to increase business to and for the Caribbean region.”
The Chapter UK & Europe continues to expand, with 78 members including airlines, tour operators, hotels, destinations, media and allied partners. So far this year, it has welcomed around 20 new members, including Travel Gossip, Bespoke Marketing and HolidayPirates in September alone.
One of its newest members, Wyndham Grand Barbados, Sam Lord’s Castle Resort & Spa, due to open in Barbados later this month, was the headline sponsor of the Showcase.
“The fact the Wyndham is opening a new property in Barbados shows there is strong demand for the Caribbean and a desire for luxury product,” added Florian. “Luxury is definitely an area that is expanding for our region.”
Yachting and sailing operator Sunsail & The Moorings was one of the other companies attending the Caribbean Showcase for the first time this year, and the first-ever sailing partner to participate in the event.
The latest performance update from the Caribbean Tourism Organization indicates that the cruise sector has strongly rebounded, and is now poised for growth as new infrastructure and ports are opened. Cruise arrivals are expected to be between 32 million and 33 million in 2023.
“We are hoping to get some cruise lines onboard,” said Florian. “We have been in touch with strong prospects, and this will give us some insights into this sector. We need to ensure that we develop cruising in a way that fundamentally benefits local communities.”
The Caribbean has made a strong post-COVID recovery, with international arrivals 31% up in the first quarter of this year compared to the first three months of 2022. Visitor numbers are now just 5.5% below pre-pandemic levels, and there is hope for 2023 to be a record year for the region.
While traffic from the UK is slightly down year on year, CTO UK & Europe Chair Colin Pegler put this down to several factors, crucially of which is a shortage of flights. “Virgin has reduced its flights to Antigua in the summer period and its Saint Lucia service is winter-only, and there’s generally less air lift to Barbados, compared to pre pandemic” he said.
“A lack of flights and the high cost of available seats are the biggest challenges we have as a region.
“British Airways has been supportive in terms of seat volumes. It increased flights to Cancun in Mexico, which has gone from five to seven flights a week, and I am very confident that, given time and proactive discussions between the tourist boards, island governments and the main airlines themselves, including TUI, that flights will come back to pre-pandemic levels.”