The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO)’s December closure of its New York headquarters and upcoming shutdown of its London office are part of a strategic plan to shift the Caribbean tourism marketing organization’s focus to research and destination marketing, said Dominic Fedee, CTO’s chairman.
“The transition is going to make CTO a lot more efficient,” Fedee said a Wednesday press conference at the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA) Marketplace conference in Nassau, Bahamas. “A strong CTO makes a strong Caribbean. This will give [CTO] the financial wherewithal to invest in key programs like marketing [and] improving [tourism] statistics,” he said.
“We want to ensure that we get back to the days when the CTO was a repository for tourism statistics and research in Latin America and the Caribbean,” he added. “What we are trying to do is to have an organization that is going to be a hybrid between a government development agency and a business-like a commercial entity.”
In an earlier statement, CTO officials said the organization’s leaders, which include tourism ministers from 25 Caribbean destinations, have increasingly called for a change in the group’s approach.
“While there have been many visions, plans, papers written and philosophies espoused, there has been widespread acceptance that much improvement is needed to elevate tourism development in the region,” said officials.
The changes will include the establishment of strategic partnerships as well as the hiring of a new secretary-general to lead CTO’s daily operations, Fedee said. CTO will also take steps to revitalize Caribbean Week, its primary conference, held annually each June at Manhattan’s New Yorker Hotel.
“We are coming to New York with a big bang,” said Fedee. “It’s going to be the biggest Caribbean Week you’ve ever seen. We are moving the location of Caribbean Week [and] it’s going to have a big investment component to it as well,” he said.
“There will [also] be consumer touchpoints to make sure we ‘take over’ New York so consumers will know the Caribbean is in town,” Fedee added. “We are going to have some exciting news to announce in the coming days about what the Caribbean is going to develop.”
CTO’s New York office closed on December 31 while its U.K. office will cease operations on January 31.
“We want to be a lot more efficient,” said Fedee. “What we are doing is making sure CTO is more businesslike, more effective and that it serves a purpose to its members and to the Caribbean in general.”
He continued, “It is absolutely critical that the CTO works. Our members are too small to be doing a lot of things CTO should be doing on its own, things like marketing, research and policy development. It is absolutely crucial that we have an effective regional body that can drive a lot of these functions.”
Fedee said Caribbean destinations that have left the group in recent years “are expressing an interest in coming back. That’s a very, very good thing,” he said. “It is a new era for the CTO and we will hope to have a new secretary-general in place by March.” CTO has sought a new secretary-general since the April 2019 retirement of longtime leader Hugh Riley.
“Whoever comes in [as secretary general] must come with strong business principles and not just depend on government for a check,” said Fedee. “The person must have a track record of raising financing and an ability to [position] CTO services as profit centers to make sure there is viability in what the organization does. And we are definitely going to look for partnerships. This is where we are going.”
Fedee added CTO will likely rotate Caribbean Week among different geographical markets that are sources for Caribbean destinations.
“New York is not the only place,” he said. “If the marketing experts in our organization think we need to go to Atlanta or Toronto or London we will do that, based on the strategic importance to CTO.”