Among the delegates were Minister of Tourism and Economic Development for Grenada Lennox John Andrews, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism and Investment from Saint Lucia Dr. Ernest Hilaire, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism, Investment and Aviation for the Bahamas Chester Cooper, the host Tourism Minister from the Turks and Caicos Josephine Connelly, Minister of Tourism and Transportation for Barbados Ian Gooding Edghill, Minister of Tourism and Economics for Curacao Ruisandro Cijntje and Minister of Tourism and Foreign Affairs for Antigua and Barbuda Charles Fernandez. Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett joined via video conferencing.
Grenada’s Tourism Minister Lennox John Andrews felt that the ASTA convention offered a critical opportunity for Grenada to connect with travel advisors, who are key to driving travelers to the island, “So that they can get a much better appreciation of the Caribbean and of the individual countries, such as Grenada, and therefore they will have more meaningful information to provide to their clients about the region, and why their customers can come to the Caribbean and enjoy four or five days of happiness.”
Minister Andrews told the hundreds of travel advisors at the meeting, “When you come to the Caribbean what you are getting is a unique experience, you are seeing something (the culture and idiosyncrasies) maybe for the first time, it’s something new, it’s something different, it’s something creative and it’s something original. Those things that make us and define us you will find nowhere else, only in the Caribbean.”
Chief Executive Officer of ASTA Zane Kerby, expressed his confidence in the regional tourism sector, and pointed out that the Caribbean is now the second most important outbound market for the United States, “The Caribbean is the second largest outbound market from the United States and for the last two years it’s been the top outbound market for overseas travelers from the United States. Western Europe has taken its crown back, but this is still a place where there is enormous demand. In fact, I’ll go on record and say 2023 has seen the highest record travel of Americans to the Caribbean in US history.”
Kerby said this just underlines the importance of having so many tourism ministers at the meeting, to the future development and growth of the region’s tourism sector, “Travel Advisors are demand creators for places all across the Caribbean, that’s why it was important for them to hear directly from the Ministers of Tourism from islands all across the Caribbean. The fact that they’re here (the Ministers) and that they are talking to US-based travel advisors about all the great features, benefits, new hotel builds and new features that are coming to their islands is a testament to the relationship and the importance and the strength of it.”
Stressing on the critical role travel advisors play in helping to direct visitors to the region, Kerby went on to declare that the Caribbean has no better partner than Sandals Resorts, “Sandals is the only Fortune 500 brand to come out of the Caribbean, they are a major player, not only as a brand but a major employer in the Caribbean. The brand is extremely strong in the United States, it has very positive associations and it’s no wonder why so many of our travel advisors joined us here this week.’
Also lauding Sandals was the Premier of the Turks and Caicos Islands Washington Misick as he addressed the closing ceremony of the convention, where he was joined by several cabinet members of the TCI, “I remember when the Honorable Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart came here (in 1992), and sat down with the government and made a decision to buy the then Sheraton, and it has changed the face of tourism in the Turks and Caicos, and he coined a name for these islands ‘the last of the true exotics.”
TCI Minister of Tourism Josephine Connelly also reflected on the relationship with the Sandals and Beaches brand, “Beaches has always been a good partner, I am very happy, I am very appreciative, and Beaches Turks and Caicos help us with not only help us in terms of tourism, but they also help us with our schools, with developing our agriculture, and just this week we launched the agriculture-in-a-box project.”
ASTA’S 2024 convention will take place at Sandals Royal Curacao in August next year, where the association is hoping to build on the strides made this year.