March 22, 2007 — The V.I. Hotel and Tourism Association (HTA) got a firsthand look at problems and developments in our neighboring islands as Peter Odle, Caribbean Hotel Association (CHA) president, spoke at HTA's annual membership meeting Wednesday.
The Marriott's Frenchman's Reef Beach Resort meeting was the first without Beverly Nicholson Doty at its head in a decade or so, but Doty still received recognition.
The HTA honored Doty in her new capacity as V.I. Tourism Commissioner, for which she was unanimously approved by the Legislature Tuesday. Graeme Davis, HTA board chairman, praised Doty's accomplishments in her 14 years with the association.
Odle prefaced his remarks with praise for Doty's unique background, noting her years of experience at the HTA. "Unless you have been involved in the private sector," he said, "it is difficult to understand the hotel business. It makes a huge difference."
The main problem facing the other Caribbean islands now, said Odle, is the State Department's Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which requires U.S. citizens returning from all, Caribbean countries, except the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, to have U.S. passports.
The HTA launched a "No Passport Required" promotion last year to correct erroneous impressions that a passport is needed to travel to the territory. Odle took a few gentle jibes at Davis, for breaking rank with other Caribbean islands with the promotion. He said at a press conference after the luncheon that the U.S. Virgin Islands "did the right thing."
He said many Caribbean islands have had a "soft" season. Other factors may have influenced this, he said, but he believes the passport requirements played a big role in the drop in visitors.
Odle's focus is creating unity among the 35 Caribbean islands, comprised of varying national backgrounds.
To this end, he told of the recent joint endeavor between CHA and the Caribbean Tourism Association to further promote the region. That new endeavor, the Caribbean Tourism Development Company (CTDC), is a private entity formed to generate marketing and is jointly owned and operated by CTO and CHA, with each organization having a 50 percent share in the company.
The purpose of CTDC is to generate revenues, and for the promotion and protection of the interests of the owners. Caribbean countries may become members, as long as they are already members of the hotel associations on their home island.
Odle said a "beautiful" new logo is available for a nominal charge to contributing countries. He didn't have the price of the logo but said it would be "reasonable." Also, the CTDC has taken the Caribbean Gold Book, the travel agents' most comprehensive reference source to the lodging industry in the region and are "rebranding" it as CaribbeanTravel.com. A new website will be launched later this year, Odle said.
Speaking at the conference later, Odle recalled a conversation with Richard Doumeng, Bolongo Bay proprietor, and longtime HTA principal. "He told me gleefully that last weekend you had no rooms at all — people were sleeping in bunks," Odle said. "I told him that was great. My concern is that they stay in the region and don't plan to go to Hawaii or another area next year. We want to keep them here."
Odle divides his time between homes in Barbados and London. He talked about a conference in the U.K. last week on climate change, parts of which, he said, angered him. He said the Caribbean is "pollution free," as opposed to industrialized countries.
He said Caribbean countries must not be disadvantaged, or their development efforts curtailed, as a result of mitigation efforts by industrialized, developed countries acting to curtail their own negative impacts on the environment.
Odle said the Caribbean should be looked at as a "zone of peace." "Look around the world," he said. "We are blessed."
Odle is a Caribbean tourism veteran — and then some. In 2000 he was named CHA's "Caribbean Hotelier of the Year" and is currently CHA president for the 2006-2008 period. He is also chairman of the Barbados Tourism Authority, a past president of the Barbados Hotel & Tourism Authority and the National Tourism Marketing Committee. He also owns several tourism properties, many of them historic destinations. "I am a proud Caribbean man," Odle concluded.
In other news, the HTA reelected several members and four new members. Newly elected were Marc Langevin, Ritz-Carlton general manager; Alex Andrade, Yacht Haven Grande general manager; Maggie Day of Maho Bay/Est. Concordia; and Larry Magor, Wyndham Sugar Bay Resort and Spa general manager.
Re-elected were Lisa Hamilton of Marriott Frenchman's Reef; Ronald Lockhart, of Crystal Palace; Judi Nagelberg, with Island Meetings & Incentives; and Trudie Prior, Coral World Ocean Park owner.
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