(Following are inaugural remarks given by CHTA President Patricia Affonso-Dass during the opening of CHIEF in Miami, July 22, 2018)
Good evening, Immediate Past President Karolin, Past Presidents of CHTA, Directors, Members, Industry colleagues, friends, ladies and gentlemen.
I stand here this evening proud and extremely humbled to have been elected to serve as the President of CHTA for the next two years. I assume this position with the full knowledge of the level of commitment required, the huge responsibility it brings due to the critical importance of our tourism sector to the region’s growth and sustainability and the need for all who agree to serve in this position to put the greater needs of the association, the industry and our members ahead of those of our specific business or island. The position of President of CHTA truly is one of service above self!
From my very first interaction with this organization – then CHA – some 29 years ago, in my first job out of university as the Executive Assistant of the Caribbean Hotel Training Institute which CHA created, I have believed in the value of this association, in its ability to bring people together, to provide support and a voice for all in the industry, to create lasting and valuable linkages to all sectors, to provide training and development, to showcase the beauty and diversity of our amazing region and to advocate on behalf of the membership.
The CHTA that I was exposed to all those years ago was comprised of a group of people passionate about the region, driven to create an environment in which their businesses and their people could grow, develop and be sustainable, and they were willing to give their time, energy, talent and commitment to the association through their volunteer leadership.
As I look around this room today at the faces of many that have served before me, I am inspired by the significant contributions that they have made to the growth and improvement of our industry; but almost more importantly, I see before me the new leaders of our industry, the men and women that will take us into tomorrow, who will shape our future and who will ensure that the tourism industry in the Caribbean grows from strength to strength.
I encourage you to immerse yourself in every aspect of the industry, to be active learners about the issues affecting the industry, not just in your particular destinations but across the wider Caribbean, and be willing to lend your voice, your time and your energy to your local associations through volunteer leadership.
The Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association was referred to by Past President Sir Royston Hopkins, as the University without Walls in the Caribbean. I can tell you that my involvement with CHTA has taught me more than any university course that I ever took and has provided me with a professional network that has sustained me throughout my career. It is an invaluable resource and I strongly recommend that you get involved and use it.
As I look around the room this evening I see many people that have been a part of my journey, who have encouraged and supported me, who I have admired and who have fueled my continued love and enthusiasm for the industry and the association and I am eternally grateful for the impact that they have had on my career.
I would particularly like to thank the owner of Ocean Hotels in Barbados and my boss, Mr. Peter DeFreitas, for allowing me the opportunity to serve and to my hotel teams for assuring me that they have my back and will keep the ship afloat – I know that they are more than capable, and I am truly proud of them.
Thank you to Frank, Vanessa, Matt, Martha, Adriana, Alain, Gabi and Tracy for all that you do each day to keep the business of our tourism business going and from a personal perspective, for your support and assistance over the past year.
I would also like to recognize and thank my family, and particularly my parents who are here this evening – they have always been my strongest support.
I would like to especially thank Karolin our Immediate Past President for her service and selfless dedication to this association over the past nearly three years and most importantly for all of her efforts to reach out to our member destinations in their times of need.
Karolin has been an amazing example of volunteer leadership fueled by a love of the region and a belief in the Association and it should inspire all of us. Thank you, Karolin, for your service and for your support over the past year as I have made the transition from President Elect to President.
The region needs a vibrant, engaged, progressive CHTA to be our voice and our advocate – to this end I commit to continuing to work to foster and strengthen linkages and partnerships with the public sector, agriculture, manufacturing and other service industries and sectors that are essential to our growth and development.
I will continue to ensure that we keep the association’s advocacy efforts with our public-sector partners and governments focused on the critical need to speak with One Caribbean voice, to ensure a facilitative environment for investment, development and growth and to seek out and encourage best practice in all that it does to ensure that the trickle-down effects of this industry benefit the widest number of our people and has the most positive financial impact.
We are 32-member countries, 5 languages, diverse landscapes and environments, but we are One Caribbean Brand, capable of delivering thousands of fabulous and individually authentic experiences to those who choose to holiday in our region.
We are stronger together, we can speak with a louder voice, by combining our individual strengths we have a more compelling story to tell – in the Caribbean the Rhythm Never Stops and Tourism is Key.
Tonight, I wish to challenge you all, and our wider membership, to magnify our message that Tourism is truly Key to the Caribbean! Use CHTA and the opportunities it provides to train and expose your teams, to network, to promote best practice, to improve efficiencies, to strengthen public private sector partnerships and to show the world that these countries that we call home are not just a collection of small islands eking out an existence from tourism, but rather that we are leaders – a tourism powerhouse capable of delivering the most memorable experiences, offering warm and genuine hospitality delivered by people who are well educated and trained and are proud of who they are and where they live, that we are innovators not followers that we – each and every one of us IS Tourism.
This is our Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association, these are our islands, this is our region, and we are proud to call it home.
In closing I wish to recognize my new slate of officers – Karen, Alberto, Pablo, Gregor, Nicola and Jim – thank you for agreeing to serve with me, there is much to be done and I look forward to your support and active involvement as we continue to build and strengthen this association and the Caribbean.