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Caribbean Tourism Ministers, Travel Advisors Hold Historic Meeting


For the first time in its history eight Ministers of Tourism, including two Deputy Prime Ministers, descended on Beaches Resorts in Turks and Caicos from August 28th to the 31st, for the annual convention of the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA).

Among the delegates were Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism and Investment from Saint Lucia Dr. Ernest Hilaire, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism, Investment and Aviation for the Bahamas Chester Cooper, the host Tourism Minister from the Turks and Caicos Josephine Connelly, Minister of Tourism and Transportation for Barbados Ian Gooding Edghill, Minister of Tourism and Economics for Curacao Ruisandro Cijntje, Minister of Tourism and Foreign Affairs for Antigua and Barbuda Charles Fernandez and Minister of Tourism and Economic Development for Grenada Lennox John Andrews. Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett joined via video conferencing.

Saint Lucia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism Dr. Ernest Hilaire noted the importance of this meeting to Saint Lucia, as it allowed the Saint Lucia Tourism Authority to interact with hundreds of travel advisors, a community that plays a critical role in driving the growth of the tourism sector in Saint Lucia. He told the crowd of travel advisors in attendance that, “This comes on the heels of Saint Lucia’s best performance at the recent World Travel Awards where we not only retained the award for the Caribbean’s Leading Honeymoon Destination for a 14th time, but where we were also awarded Caribbean’s Leading Adventure Tourism Destination and very significantly, Caribbean’s Leading Nature Destination.” Minister Hilaire sought to highlight Saint Lucia’s offerings as a nature destination, particularly when he noted that travelers were seeking more experiential vacations, and urged travel advisors to make this the destination of choice.

Chief Executive Officer of ASTA Zane Kerby, expressed his confidence in the regional tourism sector, and pointed out that the Caribbean is now the second most important outbound market for the United States, “The Caribbean is the second largest outbound market from the United States and for the last two years it’s been the top outbound market for overseas travelers from the United States. Western Europe has taken its crown back, but this is still a place where there is enormous demand. In fact, I’ll go on record and say 2023 has seen the highest record travel of Americans to the Caribbean in US history.”

Kerby said this just underlines the importance of having so many tourism ministers at the meeting, to the future development and growth of the region’s tourism sector, “Travel Advisors are demand creators for places all across the Caribbean, that’s why it was important for them to hear directly from the Ministers of Tourism from islands all across the Caribbean. The fact that they’re here (the Ministers) and that they are talking to US-based travel advisors about all the great features, benefits, new hotel builds and new features that are coming to their islands is a testament to the relationship and the importance and the strength of it.”

Stressing on the critical role travel advisors play in helping to direct visitors to the region, Kerby went on to declare that the Caribbean has no better partner than Sandals Resorts, “Sandals is the only Fortune 500 brand to come out of the Caribbean, they are a major player, not only as a brand but a major employer in the Caribbean. The brand is extremely strong in the United States, it has very positive associations and it’s no wonder why so many of our travel advisors joined us here this week.’

Also lauding Sandals was the Premier of the Turks and Caicos Islands Washington Misick as he addressed the closing ceremony of the convention, where he was joined by several cabinet members of the TCI, “I remember when the Honorable Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart came here (in 1992), and sat down with the government and made a decision to buy the then Sheraton, and it has changed the face of tourism in the Turks and Caicos, and he coined a name for these islands ‘the last of the true exotics’.”

TCI Minister of Tourism Josephine Connelly also reflected on the relationship with the Sandals and Beaches brand, “Beaches has always been a good partner, I am very happy, I am very appreciative, and Beaches Turks and Caicos help us with not only help us in terms of tourism, but they also help us with our schools, with developing our agriculture, and just this week we launched the agriculture-in-a-box project.”

ASTA’S 2024 convention will take place at Sandals Royal Curacao in August next year, where the association is hoping to build on the strides made this year.

SOURCE: Sandals Resorts. Headline photo: From L to R – Gebhard Ranier, Sandals Group CEO, Dr. Ernest Hilaire – Deputy Prime Minister and Tourism Minister Saint Lucia, Gary Sadler – Executive Vice-President of Sales and Industry Relations Unique Vacations Inc.

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  1. Hilaire, all these meetings mean nothing to the local taxi driver, restaurant owner, hotel workers. Let us hope you can get to convert results of these meetings to $$$. We want to see an increase in hotel occupancy, more cruise ships come to town, more arrivals from the international market as well as the regional market. Once you get these in place then you can start to discuss all your high level meetings in the Bahamas. Let us know when these will be your main objectives. Thank You.

  2. @JahGuide, everything start with proper negotiation, however we often publicize these events with big aspiration narratively. The fact is that our negotiators are horrible when negotiating. I saw one clown comparing 2023 to 2019 recently on news, totally disconnected from the real world. Tourist are now exploring more avenues for relaxation and more naturistic markets. What have to market is beaches (which are all over the planet) agro tourism, falls, two rocky peaks and amongst all that similar things can be found globally. We now have an emerging new product CRIME. So I would suggest to the PM and the Deputy to sit down and say here mun the 2 of us are not cut out to solve crime lets give up that post and find someone competent. Because equally more tourist more increase of crime because at its present state our leaders are well educated on paper but equally dumb in the practical sense.

  3. “Things are Rough in St. Lucia” – this is the chorus in St. Lucia to every tune sang by the locals. Yet, the ministers find tax payers money to travel internationally and regionally. When will the politicians start to lead by example. Start to find ways to save and cut cost in the government expenses. Covid taught us a lot – we were able to function during Covid. Why can’t we use the same template that was used during Covid. Why can’t the government make use of the new technology available to them. Software’s as Zoom, Teams Webchat etc. can help us save money in traveling while we achieve the same objectives. When will this government start to save the money and put them into good use instead of traveling cost such as hotels, meals and transportation. Hilaire, I thought you were a smart guy who had all the ideas.

  4. So how come we had no cruise ships for the whole off season (May to September) and no one said a word. SHEEP BLAAHHH BLAAHHH. But we like it so, we voted for that.

  5. Aren’t these the same ministers who CRITICISED Chastanet, Fedee, et al for “travelling” all over the place? And who is doing it now? @SameGuy – I am agreement with your comments.


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