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Q&A: Caribbean 'not turning its back' on UK market

TTG spoke with Dominic Fedee, chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), about its strategy, Brexit and all the challenges facing the region.

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Dominic Fedee, chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organization
Dominic Fedee, chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organization
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Q&A: Getting the answers on CTO's restructuring

What will the CTO’s strategy be following the closure of the UK office later this month?


The first step is to achieve a collaborative effort from all the islands, so we can market the Caribbean as a single brand.

 

This will hopefully ensure there is greater visibility in consumer and trade markets and encourage more people to visit the region.


Why did the CTO decide on the 2020 restructure?


We’ve realised that our destinations have been successfully promoting themselves, and in some cases
we’ve seen the New York, Toronto and London CTO offices colliding with and replicating efforts made by these Caribbean nations.

 

We want to be strategic, to look at what’s being achieved on the ground by the destinations themselves, and then focus on what the CTO can do to complement their strategies rather than compete with and duplicate them.


In what capacity will the CTO’s operations continue in the UK?


We will have a smaller presence in the UK, but the usual trade activities will continue.

 

A number of our islands and hotels already have representatives on the ground, and there has already been a lot of great work completed by our respective destination members here too.


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The Caribbean Tourism Organization says the UK will continue to be an important market
The Caribbean Tourism Organization says the UK will continue to be an important market

What opportunities could post-Brexit UK have for the Caribbean?


We are not turning our backs on the UK as it’s still the second-most important market for the Caribbean.

 

However, it’s going to be interesting looking at a future in which the UK will likely not be in Europe.


We are certainly going to explore the possibilities that exist for a shift in aviation policy that might be conducive to both inbound and outbound travel to the Caribbean from the UK.


Indeed, we are very excited to see what the new era will bring for the UK.

 

Of course, I think the outcome will depend on Brexit and will come down to talks at the government level to ascertain what the collaborative UK-Caribbean travel environment will be like.

How has the CTO’s mission changed?


We took the decision [to close the London and New York offices] in October, and so we are still in a transition period.

 

We have a consultant that is analysing the various elements of the CTO, and we are looking at factors affecting tourism.

 

When you look at the world, it’s clear the industry has changed.


The CTO has been in existence since 1976, so ultimately we are now trying to be a lot more efficient globally in how we deliver core resources to our members, in terms of marketing as well as research and statistics.

 

We aim to be a hub of tourism intelligence for the Caribbean and Latin America.

Climate change is a challenge for the Caribbean
Climate change is a challenge for the Caribbean

What are the main challenges affecting the region?


Climate change is always high on the list, but there is also a need for strong collaboration in terms of sharing data.

 

This has been a long-standing and chronic issue that Caribbean tourism leaders have been confronting for many decades.

 

The restructuring of the CTO will hopefully deal with that challenge so the Caribbean can compete more effectively in the market.


How important is the UK market for the Caribbean?

 

Things have changed since the CTO was formed in 1976, when a lot of the islands’ income came from agriculture.

 

Fast forward 40 years and Caribbean income heavily relies on tourism.

 

Our governments have an interest in growing tourism from the UK, and there is staunch support from the private sector too.


I commend the private sector for coming onboard so strongly and showing their commitment to the Caribbean.

 

I think it is an indication of the importance of the Caribbean market to their businesses. It’s also an indication of the strong demand that the Caribbean enjoys from UK customers.

 

It’s great to see our main partners in the UK coming together to focus on the Caribbean in such a powerful way.

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