The Bahamas Set to Host ‘Important’ CHA Conference

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The Bahamas will host the Caribbean Hotel Association Marketplace at the Atlantis Resort from January 13 – 15, 2008. In attendance at the press conference, from left, were Executive Vice President of the Bahamas Hotel Association Frank Comito; Director General of Tourism at the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation Vernice Walkine and Director General and Chief Executive Officer of the Caribbean Hotel Association Alec Sanguinetti. (Photo by: Derek Smith) 

By: Llonella Gilbert

NASSAU, Bahamas — The Bahamas will host the most important marketing event of the year, as it sets the tone for travel packaging in the Caribbean, said Director General of Tourism Vernice Walkine, at a press conference, Wednesday, December 19, 2007.

The Caribbean Hotel Association Marketplace 2008 will be held from January 13 – 15, 2008, at the Atlantis Resort, Paradise Island.  The last time this event was held in The Bahamas was in 2000.

“In excess of 1,500 buyers and suppliers of tourism products in the region are expected to attend this premier Tourism Marketplace,” Ms. Walkine said.  “The event attracts international buyers and suppliers of Caribbean tourism products from 35 countries and a large number of international trade press representatives.”

The Caribbean Hotel Association Marketplace brings together in one location the major industry buyers and suppliers inclusive of hoteliers, airlines, car rental companies and ground handlers with qualified tour operators and wholesalers, the Director General explained.

Also in attendance at the press conference were Director General and Chief Executive Officer of the Caribbean Hotel Association Alec Sanguinetti and Executive Vice President of the Bahamas Hotel Association Frank Comito.

Expedia, Travelocity, GoGo Vacations, Travel Impressions/American Express Vacations, American Airlines Vacations, US Airways Vacations and Delta Vacations will all be in attendance at the Marketplace.

Ms. Walkine said all of these companies generate multi-million dollars in revenues to the region and the Caribbean wishes them to continue to increase their business.

“Over the course of the Marketplace, buyers and suppliers will meet face-to-face to discuss existing contracts, develop new packages and enter contracts for future business.”

Ms. Walkine explained that the success of the negotiations during Marketplace 2008 will translate into resort bookings to the various Caribbean destinations inclusive of The Bahamas over the next 12 months.

“We are pleased that the event is happening in The Bahamas, as it provides an opportunity for us to have the buyers and sellers of our multiple-island destinations experience first hand the variety and diversity of the islands of The Bahamas.

“The hosting of Marketplace 2008,” Ms. Walkine said, “represents for the Islands of The Bahamas a singular opportunity to showcase many of our resort properties along with our touristic attractions, resort amenities and cultural and heritage sites to a group of people who are responsible for a significant amount of our annual tourism bookings.”

Mr. Sanguinetti noted that this year has been a challenging one for the Caribbean.

“Today’s traveller is far more sophisticated because of the wealth of information readily available to them just through the Internet,” Mr. Sanguinetti said.  “Therefore, their ability to make choices from far greater alternatives than they had years ago is part of the difficulties and part of the competition we face.”

He also explained that while world tourism is growing, Caribbean tourism is remaining stagnant.

“We had very little growth in 2006, about one per cent based on figures from the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, and we are not anticipating much of a change to that this year.

“So this event gives us the opportunity to really demonstrate to the right now over 134 buyer companies from 35 countries around the world that we are competitive and we have an excellent product.”

Mr. Sanguinetti also noted that buyer companies from the 35 countries also include emerging markets like Russia, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland.

He explained that the event is not a trade show, but instead is two days of business appointments, which is scheduled by a computer.  He added that a record number of appointments are expected this year.

Mr. Comito said a number of entities including several ministries and three promotional boards have partnered together to make the Marketplace a successful one.

He also noted that most of the member hotels of the BHA will be represented, and individuals will have the opportunity to explore upgrades at hotel sites on the islands of The Bahamas.

Mr. Comito noted a number of press and buyers and suppliers will be coming earlier and leaving later to be able to taste and experience The Bahamas in another way.