“Arguably, SOTIC is the most significant event the Caribbean Tourism Organization puts on,” said CTO chairman Richard Sealy at a July 6 press conference, and I would argue that this goes double for the 2016 edition, which will take place in Barbados, Sept. 14-16. Here are just a few good reasons why:
1. This year’s theme, “Honouring Our Legacy, Defining Our Future,” perfectly summarizes how Caribbean tourism is now, more than ever, aimed at economic growth that still preserves the Caribbean nations’ physical and cultural environments.
2. Keynote speaker Adam Stewart, CEO of Sandals Resorts International and, not coincidentally, a born-and-bred Jamaican, has a lot to say on this very issue. CTO’s characterization of Stewart as “a maverick on a mission, an energetic change agent, and an innovator who is not constrained by convention” is on the mark.
3. Good, because as CTO director general Hugh Riley said during the press conference, SOTIC is not at all about treading water; it’s about solutions.
4. To that end, the many thought leaders addressing attendees will include officials of the UNTWO, World Travel & Tourism Council, and the like. Riley said, “For anyone who is a tourism leader, educator, travel agent, tour operator, student of tourism, member of the media—anyone who is touched by the tourism sector—there will be no better place than this meeting.”
5. These speakers will address the bumper crop of issues facing the Caribbean these days, including:
- Brexit (e.g. How many Americans will choose that long-awaited trip to Great Britain in lieu of travel to the Caribbean.)
- The importance of tourism as “the engine that drives the economies of our countries,” according to Riley.
- Aviation, because “you cannot have a meaningful discussion about the Caribbean without addressing aviation”
- The growth of multi-destination travel in the Caribbean
- The sharing economy
- The development of new markets
- The expansion of niche tourism because Riley reminded attendees, “the Caribbean is not just sun, sea, and sand.” Nor is sun-sea-sand every traveler’s primary desire.
6. Getting back to aviation, the conference will close with an address by Air Canada Leisure Group president Craig Landry, who will share insights into airlift—the life blood of the region.
7. As a veteran of Caribbean conferences, I also expects this SOTIC to be a celebratory one, because Barbados, the host, is marking its 60th anniversary as an independent nation.
For more information, visit onecaribbean.org.