Caribbean tourism leaders have been advised that they must rethink the direction of the industry to maximize the value of its natural and intrinsic assets. The suggestion came from the acting secretary general of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), Neil Walters, who spoke at the Grenada Tourism Authority's inaugural awards ceremony held at the Spice Island Beach Resort. Walters stressed that stakeholders must embrace and develop the strengths of their people to keep the industry among the most competitive in the world.
"Yes, we can have the most beautiful properties, the best airports, the best seaports, but it is the people who make the Caribbean tourism product what it is. It is your welcoming and hospitable spirit which encourages visitors to return," said Walters.
One of the ways the acting secretary general says the destination can highlight its people is via community-based tourism. Walters added this also ties in with the trend towards experiential tourism, something more and more visitors are seeking.
"In all the examples of community-based tourism I have seen, the key selling point for the visitor has been the chance to come and be in that community, to experience that community, to experience the people of that community,” Walters said.
This also provides options beyond the traditional “sun, sea and sand” experiences that the Caribbean is typically known for.
"As we change to match the demands of the times and embrace the treasures of experiences which exist inland, we must re-educate ourselves to see the value that we often overlook. Facets of traditional life that we may see as less than noteworthy, visitors may see as fascinating," said Walters.
Walters said the Caribbean must embrace its identity and take pride in elements of its culture that can also serve to boost the attractiveness of destinations to the modern-day visitor. To note, he says that while many destinations across the Caribbean host food festivals, some of the more “traditional delicacies” may be held back from visitors; rather, the islands should show off all they have to offer. “I am sure many of our visitors would love those experiences,” Walters said. Another option could be shifting from just selling pottery to offering pottery lessons.