Secretary General Caribbean Tourism Organization, Hugh Riley
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The following is a World Tourism Day 2018 message from Secretary General Caribbean Tourism Organization, Hugh Riley.
The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), the tourism development agency for the region, joins the global community today in celebrating World Tourism Day 2018 under the theme Tourism and the Digital Transformation.
Digital advances have had a profound and transformative impact on our lives. They have influenced the way we learn, changed how we work, and altered the way humanity’s social fabric is connected. This behavioural evolution will continue; and in the travel and tourism business those who adapt will reap the rewards of technological innovation.
As the Caribbean’s primary foreign exchange earner, tourism remains the region’s lifeblood, contributing up to two-thirds of gross domestic product (GDP) in some cases. In order for the sector to drive continuous and inclusive growth in line with sustainable development goals, we must fully explore the economic, societal and environmental impacts of technology and innovation on tourism’s contribution to GDP.
The CTO is positioning Caribbean tourism to capitalise on emerging technologies. We’ve consulted with some of the foremost thought-leaders and are encouraging public and private sector investment in digital innovations that have disrupted traditional business models. It is our duty to our members to explore and introduce new tools and capabilities which alter the way we approach tourism marketing and development; and we must do so at all levels.
One of the best examples is our digital learning series of e-workbooks containing creatively designed audio visual and multi-lingual materials, designed to encourage and facilitate the teaching of tourism in Caribbean schools. Among other objectives the e-workbooks are meant to build greater awareness among young students regarding the significance of tourism to the Caribbean; demonstrate the importance of preserving our environment for ourselves and for our visitors; enlist the creativity of students to enhance tourism’s success; and showcase the full range of career opportunities tourism presents to Caribbean people.
Then there is the Tourism Information Management System (TIMS), an online application launched by the CTO in 2015 to capture, analyze and display tourism related data for the benefit of our members. This tool captures arrival and departure data from embarkation and disembarkation records via a business analytics system which illustrates the data in a more visual and comprehensible way, facilitating additional reporting and actionable insights.
With the launch of our Visitor Intelligence Database for Analytics (VIDA) in 2016, some CTO member states began to maximize returns on their marketing investment with the VIDA segmentation tool, utilizing postal codes to reveal rich data on the region’s visitor demographics.
Additionally, the CTO is actively collaborating with innovative and disruptive companies such as Airbnb, an online community marketplace that connects travellers with hosts in over 190 countries. Together with Airbnb, the CTO is assisting Caribbean tourism officials and stakeholders to maximize the benefits of the sharing economy, and home-sharing in particular. This work includes informing stakeholders of the value of peer-to-peer review mechanisms; providing economic analyses of Airbnb’s impact; developing policy guidelines and recommendations for the consideration of Caribbean lawmakers; exploring ways to make the sharing economy beneficial to our destinations while working in concert with all segments of the accommodation sector; and identifying ways to more effectively market the Caribbean as a region.
We are also working with Bitt, a financial technology company to develop ways of using blockchain technology and mobile money systems to the advantage of the tourism industry in the Caribbean. This work includes promoting the inclusion of micro, small and medium tourism enterprises; providing fast, simple and secure methods for visitors and locals to complete a wide range transactions; and assisting vendors and policymakers to improve data-processing and decision-making.
The CTO’s State of the Tourism Industry Conference (SOTIC) at Paradise Island, the Bahamas from 1-5 October, 2018, will feature a key session on ‘Modernizing the Experience: Using Technology to Enhance the Visitor Experience’. The discussion will cover a broad range of applications from customer-centric hospitality models leveraging technology, to the way industry leaders are using mobile and virtual reality innovations to differentiate brand identity.
In the coming months the CTO will continue to develop an agenda which encourages and assists member states’ efforts to create digitally-enhanced tourism services via entrepreneurship and innovation. It is our firm belief that more efficient resource management will empower our local communities and help build a truly inclusive tourism sector.
Tourism must bring benefits to all members of our society. Emerging digital technologies provide a range of new tools that can tackle challenges faced throughout our member states, increase profitability and bring about positive change for stakeholders that will improve the quality of life for all Caribbean people.