In light of her recent appointment, Travel Agent was eager to speak with Rosecita Jeffers and find out what the new CEO of the St. Kitts Tourism Authority has to say about her new position, working with agents and where she envisions St. Kitts further down the road.
“At the St. Kitts Tourism Authority, we will do what we can, especially with those travel agents who are high performers for the Caribbean,” Jeffers says. “Most of our hotels are small and are quite dependent on travel agent business. We welcome input and feedback from the travel agent community.”
Jeffers took over the reins as CEO in early August, after operating her own tourism and special events management business in St. Kitts for the past four years. During that time, she also undertook various projects for tourism, including serving as the local consultant liaison to the Boston-based OTF Group, which conducted research in 2006 for the development of St. Kitts’ long-term tourism sector strategy.
Prior to her private enterprise experience, Jeffers worked for several years as a member of the management team at the St. Kitts & Nevis Ministry of Tourism.
“Being an entrepreneur and having successfully operated my own high-end tourism and special events management business has exposed me to the competitive needs of the international marketplace, the industry standards that have to be adhered to and the needs of our stakeholders and local people,” she says.
Jeffers told us that her primary goals are “to strengthen St. Kitts’ relationship with international stakeholders in the marketplace, to strengthen our effectiveness in e-business, communication technology and other marketing tools, and implement appropriate industry standards to ensure that our local stakeholders are equipped to participate fully and competitively in the global environment.”
As far as arrivals go, she said she would be satisfied if the destination saw about 150,000 visitors annually. Currently, she estimates that St. Kitts saw about 110,000 tourists this past year. But in order to see that desired 40,000-person increase, St. Kitts must first improve on some struggling U.S. markets.
“The U.S. market that requires the most improvement is the mid-Atlantic and also the Southeast,” she says. “We certainly believe that we can do better in these regions now that we have better airline access from there. We have been focusing on the Northeast, since the bulk of our business has been from that area. We will continue to do this in a more strategic and focused manner.”
Between her previous positions and current one, Jeffers has seen St. Kitts evolve over the years. “Up until three years ago, St. Kitts was a major sugar producer for the region,” she says. “Since then, our economy has transformed. We are attracting high-end tourism investments, such as the Christophe Harbour Development Project, which is a 2,500-acre resort and golf development that will move St. Kitts fast forward to becoming a world-class destination. Despite the recent global challenges, we have made drastic improvements in air service, specifically American Airlines’ nonstop service from JFK and Miami along with Delta’s nonstop service out of Atlanta. The people of St. Kitts are now embracing tourism and are beginning to feel the economic benefits of tourism development. We are committed to human resource development, especially in the areas in training, education, entrepreneurship and public outreach.”