Times may be tough but, as always, the Caribbean Village shrugged off the industry’s woes with its irrepressible partying spirit that injected colour and glamour into this year’s World Travel Market. However, there was no disguising the signs of the global economic squeeze – and resentment among some exhibitors at the high cost of exhibiting at ExCeL. St Lucia had opted for a smaller stand than previously while, for the first time I can remember, Sandals didn’t take a stand at all, preferring to base itself with various tourist boards.
But, despite this, the village not only retained its optimism in the face of the increasing APD burden, but came out fighting with news of continuing investment and new developments determined to keep the Caribbean at the forefront of travellers’ minds. Work has already started to expand Antigua’s VC Bird International Airport, one of the region’s main hubs, while St Kitts is forging ahead with some major tourism and residential developments.
It was encouraging to see new badly-needed life being injected into Tobago’s hotel scene with the former Tobago Hilton becoming the Magdalena Grand and government initiatives to encourage further hotel developments on the island. But, to my mind, it was left to Sandals – one of the region’s most innovative companies – to come up with the most exciting news; that work will finally start next April on the Caribbean’s first over-water villas. This is a development bound to prompt much interest and promotion which should hopefully help to draw attention to the region as a whole.
Having visited the Caribbean on cruise ships this year, stopping in the Bahamas, Grand Cayman and Jamaica and, more recently, staying on Barbados and going off-the-beaten track in the Dominican Republic, the beauty and culture of the Caribbean continually leaves me entranced. And it’s this that makes me optimistic for the future.
The Caribbean has much that rival destinations can only dream of and with new developments and extra products coming on-stream, it has plenty to shout about. As a Caribbean specialist writer, there are plenty of stories I am hoping to tell through Definitive Caribbean. With its unparalleled breadth and depth of knowledge, the relaunch of this website promises to strengthen Definitive Caribbean’s position as an informed and independent authority – and most importantly, one that users can trust.