By Matthew Murtha, Journalism Student, Medgar Evers College
Travel agents, government officials, and business owners will converge on New York City during the first week of June to strategize about travel marketing for Caribbean countries. The Director of the Caribbean Tourism Organization, Sylma Brown Bramble, said this particular Caribbean Week conference will seek to increase the number of people traveling to the Caribbean who are interested in authentic regional cuisine.
“This June we have speakers that will educate conference attendees on how to better market exceptional culinary offerings found in the Caribbean,” said Bramble. Her research has identified a market segment that is looking for one-of-a-kind dining.
Studies by Bramble indicate that American travelers spend around a quarter of their travel expenses on food. Her research indicates that tourists are often seeking unusual food when vacationing. Bramble says that her goal is to help hospitality professionals capitalize on evolutions in consumer taste.
While cuisine is the focus of this particular conference, the objective is much broader. “The ultimate goal of CTO is to help tourism industry experts react to consumer expectations and add value to the industry while increasing customers,” Bramble said. “We want the whole world to think of the Caribbean when they hear the word ‘vacation.'”
Bramble thinks that the challenge facing the travel industry now is how to move from an over-packaged and contrived travel experience to a more factual, genuine awareness of the people and regions being visited. Bramble believes that food is a huge part of this increasing search of authenticity since eating is very much a part of the culture of any region.
The Tourism Minister for St. Maarten, Claret Connor, is interested in trends that could affect the number of visitors to his country. “This forum helps us to reach out to our partners, our tour operators, the executives within the industry, to hear from them and see what we can do to make the travel experience better,” Connor said.
Connor, who is scheduled to speak at the conference, agrees with Bramble. “Proper development is crucial,” he said. “People need to understand that the consistency and longevity of any product is basically how well you develop that product.”
His goal is to bring this message home to tour operators in St. Maarten.
Bramble says that visibility and long-term development is why the Jamaican tourist board is sponsoring the Caribbean Media Awards Luncheon. A widely held belief in the tourism industry is that development never ends and those in the industry must continually work to connect with potential customers.
Last year’s focus was entirely on marketing the Caribbean as a romantic getaway destination. It was so successful that one session this June is dedicated to the promotion of romantic vacation ideas such a weddings on beaches and extended honeymoon tours.
More than 30 countries help fund CTO, which is headquartered in Barbados and set up specifically to liaison between the industry and member governments.
The 42nd Annual Caribbean Week Seminar and Trade Show will be held Monday, June 1, through Friday, June 5 in the Grand Ballroom of the Wyndham New Yorker, across the street from Penn Station. Attendance is free for travel agents.
For more information on Caribbean Week, visit caribbeanweek.com or contact Sylma Brown Bramble, [email protected], 212‐635‐9530.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of BK Reader.