Barbados’ PM Delivers Keynote Address During Caribbean Travel Marketplace

With tourism being a massive form of wealth generation, Barbados’ Prime Minister Mia Mottley delivered a keynote address during Caribbean Travel Marketplace yesterday to highlight the need for more profits from tourism to remain in the region as well as to get more Caribbean-based entrepreneurs at the forefront of local tourism development.

Speaking at the second annual Caribbean Travel Forum at Sandals Royal Barbados, Mottley encouraged the crowd to be “shapers” of their own destiny instead of being “takers of circumstances shaped by others.”

Quoting the words of Marcus Garvey, popularized by Bob Marley, she said: “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, that sees you being a taker not a shaper.”

Mottley pointed to Sandals Resorts as an example of a success story of a Caribbean company that became a strong global brand.

“This potentially can be a historic moment, and it can be historic if we decide to move away all of the sea that separates us and to unite as one Caribbean people and to take responsibility as shapers of our destiny and do that which has eluded us for the last 70 years in Caribbean tourism,” Mottley said. “If we do not want to be victims and we want to be shapers and not takers, then resilience must start now.”

Meanwhile, Nicola Madden-Greig, president of the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association, gave an update on the state of tourism in the region during a state of the industry address. Notably, tourism in the Caribbean is back to pre-pandemic levels. However, some destinations are growing by “leaps and bounds” and others are still in recovery mode.

“We are seeing that travel continues to rise across the globe,” she says. “We’re seeing that airlines are seeing growth in revenue and the cruise industry is having growth and these are all against 2019 figures, which was a record year for tourism.”

She noted that the strength of the North American market is balancing the weakness of the Asian market. Although fare prices for the Caribbean are higher than pre-pandemic, it isn’t a deterrent for travel. Occupancy levels are also nearing 2019 levels.

In terms of challenges, she said the price and lack of inter island connectivity continues to be an issue.

“The Caribbean as a region is the fastest recovering region in the world as far as tourism is concerned,” she noted.

Although events were “the big casualty of the pandemic,” Olivier Ponti, Vice President – Insights at Forward Keys noted that they’re coming back strongly in 2023.

Ponti also pointed out that travel agents have done extremely well in the Canadian market post pandemic across brands like Club Med, Merit Travel, Sandals and Royal Caribbean, representing a 132% increase.

For more information, check out the first of its kind Caribbean Trends Report here.

Following the Travel Forum, the 41st Caribbean Travel Marketplace got underway with an opening reception at Ilaro Court, the official residence of the prime minister of Barbados. This year some 770 delegates across 50 countries are on location for business meetings.