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ON THE RIGHT: Move beyond sun, sea and sand


ADAM STEWART

ON THE RIGHT: Move beyond sun, sea and sand

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IN CONTEMPLATING our future and the factors affecting it – from advances in technology to emerging markets, and from health concerns to fluctuating world economies, finding the right balance between exploration and exploitation will be the secret to our success in facing our one and only certainty: change.

Things are moving rapidly. We cannot remain content when our customers are not. They are changing. And look, it’s not just our customer that is changing. Global consolidation in all sectors, but most certainly in the hotel and lodging sectors, burdensome taxation and the implications of the here-to-stay shared economy are but a few of the current issues affecting the way we do business.

And I think as collaborators, both business and government must equally value what is uniquely Caribbean, because if we don’t, the market will surely move to the destinations that do.

Research confirms this, according to a recent Expedia survey, 76 per cent of baby boomers rate experiencing authentic local culture as “the most important” aspect of their decision making.

People are searching to find travel products that offer deeper, more authentic experiences. This is what led me to create Island Routes Caribbean Adventures, which takes visitors beyond the gates of their resorts to experience places and people in the Caribbean they may have missed or did not know existed. Sitting on a beach sipping pina colada is nice, but it no longer satisfies. There is more to our Caribbean and our visitors want to see it, experience it.

The truth is we know that people do come to the Caribbean for its natural resources. Sun, sand and sea are the region’s hallmark and they sell. But when treated as a commodity, consumers will go where they can get those resources more conveniently and less expensively.

To encourage visitors, we must highlight the elements and most importantly, the people, that distinguish our region from anywhere else on earth. We must, while fiercely protecting our natural environment, monetise our uniqueness and expertise and share it.

We must think beyond what we have traditionally valued, to go beyond the coast and to look inward, both literally and figuratively. We must, because the fact is, we are on a course to outgrow our real estate, prized beachfront lands are going or gone. Where will development take place next? What will be the next frontier of the Caribbean experience?

There is a beauty to the life we live in the Caribbean. My home, our home, and I am proud of it and I want to share it. The warmth of our people, their tradition of hard work and their commitment to family and their communities, this is what makes us extraordinary and is the means by which wealth will stay where it is earned. Foreign investment is necessary and more often than not is for the region, however, local know-how and human capital is what humanises all this concrete and investment.

We need to work together, to find the balance between exploration and exploitation, the dream of what could be with the work at hand. To demonstrate to the world’s markets that we are worthy of investment because we are unique on the planet, blessed with natural resources that go far beyond sun, sand and sea.

Adam Stewart is chief executive officer of Sandals Resorts International. He shared these views during a keynote address at the Caribbean Tourism Organisation’s State Of The Industry Conference in Barbados last week.

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