Tag Archives: Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Conference

Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Conference cancelled – lack of interest!

Is this a problem with the organisation behind the conference, or something that goes much deeper?

Is this a backlash against Barbados for REDjet, Shanique Myrie, CARICOM movement rights, health care for immigrants and a host of other grievances?

by WSD

The Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association just announced that their (ahem) “much anticipated” inaugural annual summit scheduled for June 1-3 in Barbados has been cancelled due to low registration numbers. Unmentioned in the brief press sheet are the reasons why the conference failed – or if the organizers have even started to understand what happened.

Your writer is not in the tourism business, but I have some questions and observations as an ordinary Bajan. Let’s see if my thoughts are shared or disputed by those in tourism and Barbadians in general.

Barbados and the BHTA were heavily committed to this conference, but the conference website shows only four commercial sponsors – only two of which are major companies recognizable to your non-tourism writer (LG and MasterCard). Was this an adequate level of sponsorship interest for a conference that represented itself to be a major summit by a major organisation?

Contrast the Barbados 4 commercial sponsors with the 22 sponsors of the May 10-12, 2011 Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Investment Conference held in Jamaica.

Was the dearth of sponsors in Barbados a fault of the conference organizers, or fallout from a damaged economy and lower advertising budgets? Was the Barbados conference scheduled too closely to another major event?

Was enough notice given to the tourism industry about the conference itself and the apparently excellent list of speakers? (See BFP’s TripAdvisor’s Brian Payea coming to Barbados)

Backlash against Barbados?

Barbados is under heavy criticism (some of it entirely justified in my opinion) from our Caribbean brothers and sisters over a variety of issues including the lack of health care for LEGAL immigrants and LEGAL visiting workers in Barbados, and the REDjet situation where the airline and the Barbados government failed to show sufficient respect to the laws and sovereignty of Jamaica and T&T.

Then we come to the Shanique Myrie situation where a Jamaican visitor claims she was “finger-raped” by Barbadian authorities upon arrival, held in squalid conditions and deported the next day. Whatever the truth of her story, it doesn’t matter because the damage was done. More important, Shanique Myrie is seen by other Caribbean nationals as just another incident in a long history of similar incidents in Barbados whether reported in the news or not.

Like it or not, the truth is that Barbados as a country and Barbadians as a people are increasingly seen by the rest of the Caribbean as acting arrogantly and disrespectfully in our relations with other nations and on a personal level with visitors.

Remember, it doesn’t matter if this is true or not. It only matters that many other Caribbean nationals believe it is true, or at least have that impression.

It would be a big mistake for Bajans and tourism organizers to assume that the failure of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Conference is only about the conference itself. There might be something much bigger happening that needs to be recognized and immediately addressed at all levels.

Submitted by BFP reader WSD. Edited and headlined by Marcus.

Further Reading

Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Conference website

eTurboNews: Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association cancels conference

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Filed under Aviation, Barbados, Barbados Tourism, Culture & Race Issues, Tourism

TripAdvisor’s Brian Payea coming to Barbados

To deliver Keynote talk at Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Conference

When it comes to travel information and reviews, TripAdvisor LLC is probably the single most powerful online presence. The company’s websites attract 50+ million unique visitors each month – and that’s unique visitors, not visits. One person visiting 20 times in a month counts only once.

So when Brian Payea, TripAdvisor’s head of industry relations, speaks – hotels and tourism people listen very very closely. Mr. Payea will be delivering the keynote speech at the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Conference coming to Bridgetown June 1 to 3, 2011.

Like all businesses, tourism was thrust into an unknown and frightening world when the internet arrived and, much to their horror, hotels discovered that tourists could post unedited reviews and photos online. And post they did…

Suddenly the paid-for advertising and colourful brochures showing ten year old photos of a brand new hotel were countered with the truth. Disgruntled and ripped off customers at destinations around the world posted photos of cockroaches, stained bedding and filthy swimming pools. Tourists trapped in broken down buses with no toilets, no food and no water blogged and twittered in real time as their personal hell unfolded. The BBC and CNN often picked up on the feeds and broadcast the vacation disasters.

Things changed virtually overnight from the days when a glossy vacation pamphlet and a planted, paid-for travel story in the New York Times was all it took to attract visitors.

The hotel and tourism industry is still struggling to cope with free speech on the internet, and some fools in the industry even called for “tight regulation of hotel reviews” after TripAdvisor published as list of “dirtiest hotels”. They might as well try to stop the tides and the rotation of the earth because if TripAdvisor was shut down tomorrow another dozen or a hundred travel review websites would appear overnight.

What can the tourism industry do about internet reviews and criticism?

Mr. Payea has some ideas and he’ll be talking about the internet and other subjects at the upcoming conference.

Here’s what we think that Barbados tourism should do about the internet: Listen to what many people are saying.

Barbadians are not delivering the tourism product that we used to.

Barbados is not delivering the product that we promise in our current advertising. Look at the paid travel stories, commercials and glossy brochures. Now look at the reality. Look at what’s left of some of our beaches. Look at the trash everywhere. Talk to some of the sullen, uncaring and even hostile shop attendants downtown.

We don’t know what message Mr. Payea will bring to the conference, but we know that no amount of advertising, spin, internet engagement or re-branding can make up for a decade of neglect of our tourism and island infrastructure. No amount of paid-for travel videos can compete with the damage done by a filthy, old hotel and staff who would rather be doing something else and think that being polite to guests is “subservience”.

Barbados must concentrate on providing our best possible product and the best possible experience for every visitor to our home. That is, and should be, the business of every Barbadian.

Anyone who thinks that “re-branding”, new advertising or spin is some sort of “solution” to what’s happened to Barbados tourism is only fooling themselves.

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Filed under Barbados, Barbados Tourism