Caribbean Fair Offers Opportunities to Agents

Travel Agent recently spoke with Fernando Abreu, deputy director of marketing for the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), to find out some measures agents attending the 37th annual Caribbean Week should take in order to beef up sales to the destination.

Caribbean Week, which runs from June 9 to June 17 in New York, is full of events designed to pique interest from consumers and to further educate agents and operators about how to sell the perfect Caribbean vacation.

Fair at South Street Seaport

From our conversation with Abreu, Travel Agent learned that, above all else, agents should mark down June 12 on their calendars. That is the day of the Caribbean Fair at the South Street Seaport in Manhattan. From 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., CTO countries and private sector partners will man booths displaying promotional materials, indigenous products and other items representative of the Caribbean.

All CTO member agencies are invited to promote their business and even make sales at the booths. Abreu says CTO member agencies from Long Island, New York City, New Jersey, Connecticut and Philadelphia have all been invited to attend. He says usually about 50 or so agents take advantage of the opportunity, and that all governments participating in the fair are being urged to invite agents to sell the destination during the fair.

Opportunity to Make Sales

"This is something we hope agents take full advantage of," says Abreu, who has been involved in the event for more than eight years. "We are actually asking the governments to share their booth space with agents. Consumers, whose interest is piqued by the fair, can then book a trip with an agent right then and there."

Fernando Abreu

Agent Kimber Leivi, for her part, has taken full advantage of this opportunity for the last four years. Leivi, who works for Travel Collaborative, has made the trip from Boston every year to attend the fair and other Caribbean Week events. She says it is a perfect opportunity to learn the hottest product news from the islands and pass it along to consumers.

"I usually e-mail my clients about a week or so before I go and ask them what islands they are curious about," she says. "For example, if someone tells me they are interested in St. Lucia, I will find out whatever I can about St. Lucia and then when I get back, I will pass it along to my clients and hopefully pique their interest even further."

Travel Collaborative sells 60 percent leisure and 40 percent corporate, but Leivi sells primarily leisure and is a certified specialist in such destinations as Puerto Rico and the Cayman Islands.

Leivi says the week has been instrumental in learning new hooks to pitch to Caribbean clients. She says it is also a great promotional tool for agencies. She recommends sponsoring a CTO fundraiser. For any agency that sponsors a CTO charity event, advertising is given in return.

"This week is really a great tool for agents," she says. "The networking alone is worth it. You meet so many government officials and tourism officials face to face. You get your name out there, your company's name out there. It's definitely worth it for anyone who sells the Caribbean."

For more information on Caribbean Week, visit www.caribbeanweekny.com.

Abreu's Background

Fernando J. Abreu, an 18-year veteran of the hospitality and tourism industry, has been the deputy director of marketing for the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) since March 1, 1999. Abreu is responsible for developing strategical marketing programs and securing marketing partners in North America for the Caribbean region and the CTO-member countries. He provides the principal liaison within the CTO's management for all Chapter activities in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean.

Prior to joining CTO's marketing staff, Abreu held the position of U.S. Sales Director for AMHSA Hotels. His responsibilities there included overseeing advertising and public relations for the hotel group within the U.S. market, and attending a series of travel trade shows. Abreu has fulfilled various positions that help define his credentials. After serving at the Ministry of Tourism of the Dominican Republic in the late 1980's, Abreu worked as the director for the Dominican Republic Tourist Office and helped attract North American wholesalers, travel agents and the media to the destination.

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