Secretary General of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) Hugh Riley says the region will have to pool its resources in an effort to undertake a massive marketing campaign, if it is to maximise its full tourism potential.
“We won’t have the opportunity as a region to realise the full potential of the Caribbean unless we can find a way to pool our resources. There is not a single member country of the Caribbean Tourism Organization that has the budget that it truly needs to reach its full tourism potential,” Riley argued.
“If we pool our resources though, then we become a much more powerful force to reckon with, and we will see ourselves competing more aggressively in this tourism arena.”
Riley, who was speaking to Caribbean journalists during last week’s 18th Annual Shared Ownership Investment Conference at the Eden Roc Resort Miami Beach in Florida, recalled that the two massive marketing campaigns undertaken by the region in 1993 and 2003/2004 — the ‘Kokomo’ and ‘Life Needs the Caribbean’ campaigns, respectively, — resulted in significant increases in visitor arrivals to the region.
“On the two occasions in the last 23 years or so when we had pooled our resources, we saw tremendously satisfying results and made a much louder sound in the marketplace,” he stressed.
“The awareness of the Caribbean brand went up, and business increased tremendously for all the participating countries, so we feel justified in saying that if we could ever find a way to sustainably pool our resources and find a mechanism that will adequately fund the marketing of the Caribbean tourism, then we will have a better chance of reaching our full potential in tourism.”
The ‘Kokomo’ campaign, according to tourism industry sources, resulted in a 10 .4 per cent increase in visitor arrivals the following year, while the other marketing blitz, which was undertaken at a cost of US$16 million, yielded similar results.
Riley said, however, that despite the success of the campaigns, which marketed the Caribbean as a single destination, both efforts were not sustained, due to funding issues.
“In both of those campaigns it was a one-shot deal, and when it [funding] ended, the campaign stopped, so we need to have a sustained funding mechanism, rather than lurching from one crisis to another,” he argued.
He said the CTO is now in dialogue with member countries, as well as the private sector, in an effort to secure the necessary funding for a major, regional tourism marketing blitz.
“We talked a lot about having a public-private partnership and our member countries expect that when we come to the table, we come to the table as partners to talk about a funding effort for a major campaign,” said Riley.
He stressed that there is a concerted effort to bring all the key decision makers in one place within the next several months, adding that a great deal of work is being done at the moment to get the mechanics right.
“We don’t just want to go to a meeting and say we are trying to raise funds, that we are trying to have a sustainable campaign. We want to actually go there with details and say ‘here is what the proposal is, and here is what will happen with the funds, here is the structure which will be instituted in an organised process…,” he explained.