It's always darkest before the dawn, as the adage goes. It's a phrase the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) is keeping close at heart right now. On December 31, 2019, the CTO closed its New York City office and at the end of January, it will close its UK office. It will even conduct a “comprehensive audit” of its Barbados headquarters. Back in September 2019 when the CTO first made the announcement, it said in a statement, “While there have been many visions, plans, papers written and philosophies espoused, there has been widespread acceptance that much improvement is needed to elevate tourism development in the region.”
At the Caribbean Travel Marketplace at Baha Mar, CTO Chairman Dominic Fedee noted that while it may seem like a bit of a dark time for the organization, it’s going through much-needed rebuilding from which it will emerge better than before. “We’re going through a very serious transition with the CTO at the moment,” he said. “The transition is going to make the CTO a lot more efficient. We believe that a strong CTO makes for a strong Caribbean.”
With the restructuring, Fedee says it will give the CTO the financial wherewithal to be able to invest in key programs like marketing the Caribbean and improving statistics. “What we want to ensure is that we get back to the days when the CTO was the repository for tourism statistics and research in Latin America and the Caribbean,” he added.
While the new secretary general will likely be announced in March, Fedee says he wants someone with business acumen. “The CTO will be more businesslike, more effective and will serve a purpose to its members and the Caribbean in general,” he said.
The Caribbean is the most tourism-dependent destination in the world, Fedee said. To that note, he added “it is absolutely critical that the CTO works … if we don’t get the CTO in order, it means a lot of its members are in trouble."
Fedee also noted that there will be some big news announced by Caribbean Week New York, held the first week of June. And about Caribbean Week, he said it will be “the biggest Caribbean Week you’ve ever seen.”
The good news is many see the changes as a positive. Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) CEO and Director General Frank Comito, who sits on the CTO’s executive committee and is a member of its board of directors, says this is something the CHTA went through not many years back. “They’re making some tough decisions that they think they need to make, and we’re respecting their space,” he says. “But I think they’re moving in a good direction.”
In addition, some members who have left the CTO are, according to Fedee, expressing an interest in coming back. “I want to leave you with every assurance that it’s a new era in the CTO,” he said.