CTO chief: Funding for crisis marketing needed

Caribbean Tourism Organization Secretary General Hugh Riley.
Caribbean Tourism Organization

Hugh Riley, secretary general and chief executive officer of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), who is in New York to conduct the mandate of the CTO, in an exclusive interview with Caribbean Life recently, commended the CTO Manhattan workforce for doing a superb job of planning programs, such as the June 1-8 Caribbean Week in New York, of which he plays a supporting role.

Riley, who overseas the CTO offices in Barbados, North America, UK and Europe, spoke passionately about protecting the Caribbean brand after a natural disaster.

He said heaven forbids anything happens in member countries anytime soon, the CTO would have to repair the image of the destination, though effective messaging, noting that a natural disaster is an image disaster.

The CTO is working with private sector partners to have a marketing fund so that whenever disaster strikes “we are able to market the Caribbean brand effectively, so people know what is happening.”

“You can’t leave it up to the public to understand, which parts of the Caribbean had been affected, and those that were not affected, and what level of recovery is taking place,” adding that tourists should not have to guess, which countries were affected, whether Barbados, Bahamas, Bermuda or Barbuda.

“There is a need to use funding and other marketing mechanisms to ensure people understand what has happened when a natural disaster has occurred,” he said.

During the 2017 hurricane season, countries that were directly hit by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, suffered damage, but many of the countries that were not hit also suffered damages because tourists felt that the entire Caribbean was affected and stayed away.

This would continue to affect the Caribbean unless “we have a proper funding mechanism to repair the damage to our brand.”

“It takes money to get that messaging out,” he asserted.

In one instance, the CTO partnered with the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association to launch The Rhythm Never Stops — a marketing campaign to lure tourists back to the Caribbean region, because according to Riley, the Caribbean never stops.

The campaign was instrumental in repairing some of the damage done to the Caribbean, but when funding ran out, the campaign ended, said Riley, who contended that the region should be ready when a crisis hits.

This could be done though a sustainable funding mechanism to market the Caribbean brand, a proposal that the CTO has been at the forefront, working towards.

Riley, who leads the CTO’S initiatives to strengthen the Caribbean brand worldwide, indicated that the CTO has a strategic plan that goes from 2018 to 2022, which member countries have agreed to follow towards 2022 with a vision to position the Caribbean as the most desirable all-year round warm weather destination.

CTO’s annual February report indicates a strong growth since the 2017 hurricanes devastated parts of the region, that received 29.9 million tourist visits in 2018, the second highest on record, surpassed only by the 30.6 million who visited in 2017.

Riley said the CTO does not take full responsibility for these numbers, “we report the numbers, but we work together with our member countries and partners in the industry to carry out the mandate of the CTO. This is a concerted regional effort, not just a CTO secretariat effort,” he noted.

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