President of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA), Patricia Affonso-Dass, has expressed optimism about the future of the region’s tourism sector, saying that its rich past and many successes have served the region well.
In her New Year’s message, released Saturday, Affonso-Dass said the sector’s attainment has provided “a sound foundation for the future.”
“Looking ahead, I have a real sense of optimism about our opportunities if we learn from the past, stay clearly focused on the future and appreciate the critical importance of reinventing and improving our businesses, our processes and our people,” she said.
“We must be nimble, adaptable and innovative in this era of constant change.”
Affonso-Dass said 2018 was a reminder about “how resilient our people and our industry are, as a number of the region’s destinations and hotels bounced back from unparalleled destruction in 2017, rebuilding smarter, better and sometimes bigger.
“We got a peek into the future as over 5,000 new hotels rooms came online regionally in 2018 with over 25,000 more in the construction and planning stages,” she said, noting that existing hotels continue to invest in refurbishments and introducing new services and amenities.
The CHTA head said the region witnessed an unprecedented surge in new airlift into the region in 2019, “presenting more opportunities to entice travelers to our shores.”
She said investor and government confidence in the Caribbean tourism’s future was further buoyed, “as hundreds of millions of dollars were spent on upgraded and expanded airport facilities.”
But Affonso-Dass said the region’s “glass is half full,” asking: “Are we pouring or drinking? How do we continually adapt in an era of accelerated change when technology, competition, consumer expectations, economic and political uncertainty and climate change challenge us?”
She noted that these are all external factors over which she said the region has “little sway.”
“The ‘abundance of opportunity’ lies within ourselves,” Affonso-Dass said. “Through our companies, destination DMOs (Destination Marketing Organization), National Hotel and Tourism Associations, and regional stakeholder groups like CHTA and the Caribbean Tourism Organization, owners, operators, government partners, and individuals have an even greater capacity to positively and collectively impact tourism’s future and our bottom lines.”
“How willing are we to ‘give back’ in order to ‘get back’?” she asked. “Are we as individuals and companies taking ‘ownership’ in our industry by being engaged and supportive beyond the day-to-day challenges of operating our businesses?
“It is amazing what can be achieved through a commitment to cooperation, collaboration, open communication and mutual respect,” she added. “We have all of the necessary elements in our communities, businesses, governments and destinations to excel and to lead as the world’s most desirable tourism region.
“Let us, in 2019, commit to recognizing and developing talent wherever we see it; to critically assessing our processes in both the public and private sectors to make sure that they facilitate more than restrict; to using all means possible to inform and educate our people about the value and importance of tourism to our region and the critical role that they play in its success; and most importantly, to doing whatever we can to engender a greater sense of pride and care in our people, our environment and our region as a whole,” Affonso-Dass continued.
“There is great power in the collective,” she said. “As tourism stakeholders, let’s work to better harness this.”