Travel has now almost elevated to the ranks of being a God-given right, and all indications point to continued growth as incomes rise and the middle and upper-middle class grows, particularly in developing countries. Skift Research, drawing from data from the United Nations World Tourism Organization, estimated last May that over 500 million additional new travel trips would be made over the next decade, matching similar growth which has occurred over the past ten years. The fastest pace of growth is from Asia and Latin America.
Worldwide, travelers are taking six percent more international trips per year, with key growth driven by Asian and Latin American groups.
Destinations which are broadening their market appeal and adapting their operations to attract visitors from growing and emerging travel markets not traditionally sought after by the Caribbean, are beginning to benefit from the steady uptick of new travelers who are discovering the Caribbean.
CHTA and travel industry experts caution that marketing and airlift alone are insufficient to attract and retain diverse markets, whether they are lifestyle-based or from countries which have not been part of the Caribbean’s mainstay markets of the US, Canada, the UK and Western Europe.
To help the industry better understand the dynamics which are at play and what they can do better to capture and retain the growing markets, geographically, and by lifestyle, CHTA and the CHTA Education Foundation are providing information and training to the industry.
The issue of diversity training to address lifestyle interests became top-of-mind during a session CHTA held at its CHIEF (Caribbean Hospitality Industry Exchange Forum) event several ago. Key leaders from Virgin Atlantic, the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association, and CHTA delved into the opportunities and challenges the region faced in growing the market. Follow-up information was shared with members and a CHTA webinar gave participants additional insights.
The industry’s opportunities and challenges to tap into the explosive China travel market surfaced during a special training session for hotel suppliers who attended Caribbean Travel Marketplace last January in Jamaica, with 19 buyers from China. Marketplace was also the setting for opportunities to grow the Latin American market, which was represented by 18 buyers. Over 100 million people from Latin America joined its growing middle and uppermiddle class since 2005.
Led by CHTA’s President Patricia Affonso Dass, the CHTA Education Foundation’s Chairperson Karolin Troubetzkoy, and CHTA’s Director General and CEO Frank Comito, the organization’s leaders have driven these points home during a series of diversity training and readiness sessions conducted over the past year in Antigua, Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Maarten, and Tobago.
Addressing the Antigua and Barbuda Hotels & Tourism Association members last month at a workshop on “Diversity and Adaptability: Tapping Into the Growing Global Tourism Market”, Comito cited a best practice from The Bahamas which was successful in attracting new airlift and tour operator packages from Latin American ten years ago, only to find initial customer dissatisfaction based upon exit surveys shortly after direct flights commenced. Areas of strong dissatisfaction included the lack of basic and tourism-contextual Spanish language skills from the airline check-in experience and customs and immigration to hotels, shops and security staff and a feeling that the destination was insensitive and unresponsive to the cultural differences of the traveler.
“Visitors believed that their experience would have been better if locals spoke some Spanish,” said Comito, who added that closing shops, restaurants and entertainment too early, having English only menus and signage, and the lack of having a few menu items catered to their tastes was cause for high dissatisfaction levels.
This prompted an aggressive effort by the public and private sectors to provide Spanish language training to over 1,000 front-line employees; conduct cultural diversity training; institute multi-lingual menus, signage and in-room information; and extending restaurant and entertainment hours. The result ended up being high customer satisfaction ratings and within a year flights and arrivals increased.
Diversifying our reach presents difficulties for some destinations where tourism teams will have to fend off preconceived negative assumptions and create an internal culture of understanding its importance and that it requires an openness to others. Building tolerance and diversity into the tourism sector would not only continue to drive economic growth in the Caribbean, but also, diversity in tourism helps to break down global prejudices, fosters understanding, cultivates cultural awareness and creates an appreciation for diverse cultures.
Comito delivered his call for better readiness to expand industry’s reach and share with the world the richness of the Caribbean and its people. He indicated that with the growing number of international buyers from emerging markets who are attending Caribbean Travel Marketplace, hoteliers must provide assurances and an understanding that they are well-prepared to satisfy their markets. Communicating that readiness at Marketplace and through other venues with concrete actions which you have in place will help to generate additional business.
Caribbean Travel Marketplace will be held at Baha Mar in The Bahamas from January 21–23, 2020. For additional information visit www.chtamarketplace.com.
For further insights and data, CHTA provides members with the following information. Click on the document for the report:
“Multinational Travel Trends: A Global Look at the Motivations and Behaviors of Travelers”
Prepared by the Expedia Group
“Diversity and Adaptability: Tapping Into the Growing Global Tourism Market”
Prepared by CHTA
“How to Reach the Outbound Travel Market of China”
Prepared by CBN Travel and MICE
“Global Report on LGBT Tourism”
Prepared by the UNWTO and International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association
“Handbook for LGBTQ Travel”
Prepared by ETC.