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Caribbean Travel Marketplace Goes Virtual in 2021

Vanessa Ledesma is the acting CEO and director general of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association. (Submitted photo)

For the first time in nearly 40 years, Caribbean Travel Marketplace, the premier annual gathering where Caribbean hospitality and tourism professionals meet with regional colleagues and international buyers and sellers, will be staged virtually.

The marketing event, now in its 39th edition, is traditionally held during January, but due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on travel and in-person events, this event will take place in an online environment from May 11-14.

Vanessa Ledesma, acting director general and CEO of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association, which hosts the annual gathering, confirmed that Marketplace organizers are crafting an agenda that will allow participants more time to engage with tour operators, travel advisors, partners, trade and consumer media and influencers to network, showcase and sell their destinations and services.

Although not meeting face-to-face is a major change for CHTA’s marquis event, Ledesma is confident that participating in what has become one of the region’s most highly anticipated travel, tourism and hospitality events will deliver countless benefits to attendees.

“This virtual edition of Marketplace provides access to the world with no restrictions, and opens the event to a broader audience as the logistics of travel are removed, thereby facilitating further connectivity and networking,” she said, encouraging would-be participants to take full advantage of the robust line-up of events and offerings.

Major destination partnership opportunities are also being developed: “There will be pre-Marketplace components that will help global buyers to gain a better understanding of the destinations and suppliers, and to receive briefings on entry requirements and safety protocols,” said Ledesma.

In its virtual format, Caribbean Travel Marketplace, which typically lasts for just over two days, will be presented over the course of four days in May. According to Ledesma, “It’s longer than usual because the online format allows us to incorporate supplemental elements without impacting the core buying and selling appointments.”

In preparing for its inaugural online format, the Caribbean Travel Marketplace task force reviewed feedback from attendees of previous Marketplace events and analyzed other virtual events to incorporate best practices. The show will seek to maximize attendees’ time and avoid long hours spent in front of a computer screen. Events will be scheduled to accommodate the participation of delegates located in multiple time zones, and will allow for more than one representative per company at pre-scheduled appointments.

“We are excited about the opportunity to develop and execute an event that is representative of our diverse culture and legendary hospitality. Caribbean Travel Marketplace has been a groundbreaker in its 39 years, having held some of the most iconic and memorable events in the region. We are ready to showcase the region and our diverse product offerings to the world virtually,” Ledesma said.

She also confirmed the launch of “CHTA: Forward Together,” the association’s membership drive, which highlights the myriad benefits of membership in the organization that represents and promotes the interests of the private sector of the most significant economic driver in the Caribbean.

The Forward Together campaign highlights the association’s powerful advocacy, its hallmark Caribbean Travel Marketplace, the Resilience Series, Caribbean Hospitality Industry Exchange Forum, Taste of the Caribbean, and Health Training Series.

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