New CTO Appointment
Economics of Going Green
State of Caribbean Media
Passport to Paradise
Death Sentence in 2 Years
Priest Thinks Twice
Charges & CounterCharges
Communication in Tourism
Moves to Oust Savarin
WIBC Settles with Gregory
UWP Leadership Question
Threat to State College?
Why Marpin Was Rejected
Sanford Now In Barbados
Hotels Threaten Shutdown
Urban Baron to Cross Floor
Lestrade & Stabilisation
Urban Baron Did Not Cross
PM Charles Tightens Grip
Search for New President
Tension at N.D.C.
New Independent Party?
AT & T in Dominica
Curtis Matthiew - DFP?
Sonia Williams - Indep...
SARS in Toronto, Canada
Bobby - Independent?
Casino Gambling Begins
Formal Opening of DSC
End of Douglas Dynasty?
Wage Bill Cut
DLP Want Theodore Fired
DFP Virtually Dead
PM's Fiscal Adjustment
Dr Etienne to PAHO
Relations with China?
Sam Raphael Resigns
Tour de Dominica Politics
PJ on Independence
Politics 25 Years Later
Cure For Aids Mooted
DSS Stymied by IMF
New Development at CTO
The Silent Killer
Grenada & Hurricane Ivan
Regional Tourism Security
Making Millions on Haitians
UWP Falling Apart
© Johnson JohnRose
Feature Address Delivered At Launching Of Cruise Conversion Programme - Garraway Hotel, Dominica
THURSDAY, JULY 1, 2004 - Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Members of the Head Table, Specially invited guests, Members of the Media, Ladies and Gentlemen.
Mr. Sam Raphael, the president of the Dominica Hotel and Tourism Association, (DHTA), has asked me to excite you with some of the programmes undertaken by the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), the organization with which I work. Mr. Raphael, who prefers to be called Sam, perhaps unaware that I am neither excitable, nor exciting, has therefore, set me up for failure.
IMPORTANCE OF TOURISM TO CARIBBEAN'S ECONOMY
Before I begin my attempt at satisfying your insatiable thirst for nerve-wrenching excitement, permit me to touch on the critical nature of the tourism sector's contribution to the region's economy.
The member countries of the CTO, many of which are islands or groups of islands, several quite small, have small populations and little resources. Many had traditionally been dependent on export agriculture for foreign currency earnings and employment generation. However, the contribution of agriculture has declined over the years, with globalisation and trade liberalization, facilitated by rulings by the World Trade Organization, making it even more difficult for agriculture-based economies of the Caribbean to survive.
Tourism, therefore, which is the one economic sector common to all the states, whatever their size, has become the most important sector. Today the Caribbean is the world's most tourism dependent region. In 2003, the Caribbean welcomed over 20 million tourists and another 18 million cruise passengers. Together, they spent close to 21 billion US dollars. The sector employs about 900,000 persons, directly and indirectly. It is clear that the economic importance of tourism has increased as other traditional sectors face a bleak future.
I stress the economic importance of tourism here to accentuate the reality that if we do not do whatever is necessary to protect and strengthen the tourism sector, if we do not maintain the sustainability of tourism, we will strike at the heart of our socio-economic development, translating into considerable loss of jobs and loss of foreign exchange earnings.
CARIBBEAN TOURISM ON THE REBOUND
In 2003, the Caribbean region saw the first full year of growth since 9/11. There was a 1.7 percent decline in 2001 and a 3.2 per cent drop in 2002.
Cruise passenger visits grew a relatively modest 2.4 percent in 2001 but regained momentum in 2003, growing by 8.7 percent. Already in 2004, Dominica is reporting a 106.1 percent climb in cruise passenger numbers between January and May. Between January and March, the Caribbean average increase was 15 percent, with tourist arrivals up eight percent. Hotel occupancy rates are up eight percent to 76 percent and average room rates have increased by US$20 to US$181.
Research conducted by CTO Information Management and Research Division reveals that the outlook for the short term, at least, remains good. But we cannot afford to be complacent, since competing destinations are being aggressive in pursuit of the very visitors that we want to attract.
There are some related issues which we must note, including the developments in information technology. Although there is clear evidence of increased and improved use of Information Technology techniques in the day-to-day management and marketing of the industry, this process needs to be accelerated as we strive to match those of our competitors and, most importantly, capitalize upon the opportunities and cost-effectiveness that these systems offer.
Which leads me to the promised exciting developments at CTO which, if you take advantage of, can contribute significantly to the growth of the sector.
The hotel sector here should salivate at the opportunities which the recently launched booking engine presents. The booking engine was designed with small hotels in mind, in order to help bring them into the new technological environment that has pervaded the tourism marketplace. The "Doitcaribbean" booking engine sells exclusively the Caribbean, no Caribbean country or hotel has to compete on the system with any other destination. The system will work and is readily available for large 5 star hotels as well as simple guest house or small bed and breakfast. The only qualification for participation is that each establishment is an approved hotel by local tourist boards. Whilst the system can take bookings directly from the general public, it is unique in the ability to take bookings at different rates from other users. It has a module exclusively for travel agents, where it can further differentiate between normal travel agents and agents that are members of a CTO chapter, giving normal agents 10% commission and CTO chapter agents 14%.
The booking engine has the ability to distribute different rates for the United States, to the rest of the world. It can offer cheaper rates for CARICOM nationals. In other words, the DoItCaribbean booking engine has something unique for everybody, where all users will become and feel like privileged users. The system provides each hotel with its own management suite. Hotels can manage their own availability and run any reports they want or they can liaise with the operational office, based in Barbados.
The system uses the latest available technologies. It differentiates between each type of user when they log in to the DoitCaribbean website. From there the users will be given the rates they are entitled to, and can choose from all hotels that have availability for the requested dates. The users define how the hotels are displayed either at random or by price. They can ask for more information if required or book the rooms immediately. Confirmations are sent to both hotels and users, invoices issued or credit cards processed and upon receipt of funds vouchers issued. Naturally everything is done on-line.
INTERACTIVE TRIP PLANNER
Another major marketing tool is the Interactive Trip Planner, which eliminates the need to print expensive brochures that can become outdated even before they come from the printers. The ITP is an instrument through which potential visitors can access information on their areas of interest in a matter of seconds. It includes personalized information on where to go, what to do and where to stay. It is immediate and up to date. The person seeking information can download and print the entire brochure or customize it to his or need needs. It comes in a full-sized version and a wallet-sized pocket version.
Then there is the B2B, a directory, an inventory of accommodations across the Caribbean, placed on one website, www.onecaribbean.org. This exposes your hotel to the global internet audience and at present, listing in the B2B is free. You will be able to post job vacancies, business opportunities, requests for proposals and classified ads. This kind of technology will ultimately enable suppliers to sell their product or service to consumers electronically.
Of course, our programmes are not limited to information technology initiatives. Our human resource division presents several training opportunities. This year alone, the CTO Foundation Scholarship programme granted US$60 thousand dollars in scholarships and grants to Caribbean nationals pursuing tourism and hospitality studies. All the scholarships, totaling close to US$45 thousand dollars, went to persons pursuing Masters degrees. Since 1997, the Foundation has awarded about half a million US dollars in scholarships and grants. Dominica must seek to take advantage of these opportunities.
The human resource department, through the Caribbean Tourism Human Resource Council, (CTHRC), of which my compatriot, Yvonne Armour-Shillingford is the coordinator, has also produced manuals for teaching tourism in schools and is working with tertiary institutions to introduce a core curriculum across the region. Already, some institutions have introduced the curriculum.
On the issue of teaching tourism in schools as a separate subject, I urge you to talk to the minister of education in a bid to convince him of the importance of such a bold initiative.
In the area of marketing, CTO organizes a number of events, including the highly successful, Caribbean Week in New York. This year, a Dominican chef was among those who gained exposure during Caribbean Week. We coordinate events, supplements in major newspapers and magazines in the North America and Europe, promotions in the various markets, and the construction of the Caribbean Villages at trade shows in Europe. By combining resources, participating in these marketing campaigns becomes a lot more cost effective for our membership.
Sustainable Tourism Development is a key and very important component of CTO's programme. We coordinate the Caribbean Blue Flag Programme, a certification programme for beaches and marinas, and seek to influence policy through our Conference on Sustainable Tourism Development.
Dominica hosted the first such conference in 1997, and should seriously consider bidding for another one soon. Next year's conference will be held in Tobago, maybe you should bid for the one in 2006. The advantages of hosting such a conference are too many to ignore.
To list the varied programmes of CTO, I would need a lot more than the few minutes that I have been allowed (and I promised to be brief). Therefore, I invite you to visit our information website, www.onecaribbean.org for more information. Also, since many of the services are restricted to our membership, I appeal to you to become members of CTO.
Now, events like the Conference on Sustainable Tourism Development and the Caribbean Tourism Conference, the 27th (which will be held in Aruba from October 17-20 this year, and to which I invite everyone here), provide ideal platforms for collaboration between the public and private sectors and for the creation of partnerships. Today's launch of the cruise conversion programme is one such partnership that must be applauded. Any activity, any programme that will help bring more visitors to our shores should be encouraged.
As I stated earlier, some 18 million cruise passengers visited our shores last year. In a report released last week, CLIA, the marketing arm of the cruise lines, said business in the first quarter of this year was up over nine percent over the same period last year. The member fleets of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) carried 2,419,921 worldwide guests in the first quarter of 2004. North American passengers grew 6.8% during the same period, to 2,071,797 guests in the first quarter of 2004.
And there is every reason to believe that the cruise sector will continue to grow. A 2003 study by the World Tourism Organization ( the real WTO ) of the "Worldwide Cruise Ship Activity", describes the modern cruise ship as really a floating hotel or resort , with a central atrium with accommodation on various floors, with crew members being given titles like "hotel manager", and resort services offered like swimming pools, interactive TV, stores, library, golf courses, art galleries, business centres, cinemas, spas etc.
A significant difference from a land-based resort however, is the mobility of the floating hotel. Also, we are seeing the construction of bigger and bigger ships and CTO's research division studies indicate that the Caribbean is receiving more passengers on fewer ships. Between 1997 and 2001, for example, while cruise passenger visits to the region increased by 23%, the number of ships visiting these destinations declined by 0.6 percent.
According to WTO, many of the cruise clientele are taking a cruise for the first time, and come from all segments of the population, especially in the more mature markets of the USA and Canada. The average age is 46 and, in the case of American cruisers, the average household income is about US $ 50,000.00.
CLIA reports that cruise passengers perceive a cruise holiday as good value, which results from the ability of the cruise lines to manage many aspects of the trip in a controlled environment, not least of all, their costs. The hotel sectors, on the other hand, complains bitterly of unfair competition.
Cruise passengers spend under 10 percent of the estimated US$21 billion that tourism brings to the region. Passenger expenditure varies widely between destinations, based mainly on the amounts spent on shopping. Although average spend per passenger visit was US$109 in 2001, this ranged from US$18 in Grenada to US$269 in the US Virgin Islands. According to the WTO study, on-board spending is an ever more important part of cruise line revenue, with figures often reaching 35 % of total".
According to a study by Market Scope about North Americans also referred to by WTO, on three, four and seven day Caribbean cruises, passengers under 45 years of age spend an average of 357 dollars, 45 to 65 year olds spend 345 dollars and the over 65 year olds spend 242 dollars. Most is spent on gambling and drinking, which together represent 50 % of the total. Spending on sightseeing and playing sports on-land is 124 dollars, 144 dollars and 94 dollars for the age groups respectively, while spending in on-board franchises or shops is 103 dollars, 116 dollars and 123 dollars respectively. I give you these figures as food for thought.
According to a study done in 2001 for FCCA by Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC), the ship's crew spent US$376 million in Caribbean ports in 2000; cruise tourism generated an estimated 60,000 jobs (34,000 direct and 26,000 indirect) in the region in 2000; a typical cruise ship with 2000 passengers and 900 crew members generated an estimated US$259,000 in total expenditure during a port visit.
CTO expects cruise visitation to grow by around 6-7% per annum through 2005. Of course, few competing destinations have been able to offer the full set of advantages for cruising which the Caribbean has. These include: close proximity to the US market, an amenable year-round climate, relatively short distances between ports of call and a large number of ports permitting numerous itinerary variations.
197,784 cruise passengers visited Dominica between January and May of this year. At this rate, the number of cruise visitors will be just under half a million for the year. That's half a million people you have a shot at attracting back for a land-based stay, one million eyes that you have an opportunity to impress.
The cruise conversion programme is a good first step. It is a low-cost way of marketing the destination. However, it is important that every sector is involved. The hotel sector is already involved. Tour operators, events promoters, and everyone in the industry must participate. Also, presentation of the product is extremely important. Dominica must present itself as different, because it is different. It must promote its uniqueness because it is unique. It must employ a multi-pronged approach and not just set up a booth or two at the cruise ship pier distributing brochures, because it requires a multi-pronged approach. In short, the appetizer must be tasty, the headline must be catchy, the sense of excitement has to be created throughout.
I must caution that it may be a while yet before we can evaluate the effectiveness of this programme. Barbados introduced a cruise conversion programme in 1998. A study conducted by CTO on behalf of Barbados in 2002 revealed that 11.3 percent or 461 of 3,603 stay-over visitors questioned said they had visited the country previously on a cruise. The percentage had not changed in 2003 with 505 of 3,976 or 11.3 percent saying yes, they had visited on a cruise before. What the figures did not show was the number who returned because of the cruise conversion programme or because they were enticed to return when they visited on a cruise ship.
Going back to the subject of partnerships, CTO, CHA and FCCA have recently formed a tripartite committee to strengthen areas of cooperation and to explore ways to finance a sustainable fund for tourism development. Maybe these organizations have realized that there is very little that we cannot achieve if we are prepared to work together and embrace the challenges of change. They probably recognize that the demarcation of public and private sector roles that existed formerly in tourism no longer applies. Or perhaps it has become even clearer to them that in this world of globalization and consolidation, fragmentation and duplication is the surest recipe for disaster for the Caribbean. Dominica would do well to take a page from their book.
I thank you.