The Caribbean Connection Walk for Wellness brought the travel community together to celebrate Caribbean Wellness Day on September 12, 2020. Using modern communications tools, the virtual walk connected travel advisors with fitness enthusiasts in the destinations that they sell, to explore the range of wellness offerings that can be enjoyed throughout the region. The event was organized by Travel Advisors Selling the Caribbean (TASC), a grassroots organization that advocates for Caribbean travel.
Several Caribbean sporting icons, fitness groups and trainers assumed the role of Wellness Ambassadors in this initiative. They inspired participants to run, hike, bike, swim, dance or use meditative yoga, by tapping into the vast wellness resources that are available throughout the Caribbean. Despite limitations imposed by the pandemic, the Wellness Ambassadors infused the rich heritage and culture of the islands, to demonstrate unique techniques and unearth various product offerings that travelers can utilize to maintain a healthy lifestyle while on vacation in the Caribbean.
The event was hosted by Mark Jenkins, a celebrity personal trainer of Antiguan and Barbuda descent, who is based in Los Angeles. He led the group in virtual warm-up and cool-down sessions and shared fitness techniques that he has used successfully with his roster of celebrity clients that include: Mary J. Blige, LL Cool J, Beyonce, D’Angelo, DJ Khaled, Busta Rhymes, P Diddy and Missy Elliott.
Jenkins was extremely impressed with the display of talent and quality of fitness instructions and pointed to unique opportunities to position the Caribbean as a premier wellness destination. He encouraged the Caribbean Wellness Ambassadors to collaborate on digital wellness programs that could be monetized and integrated as part of the region’s unique tourism product. Jenkins indicated that the demand for wellness retreats is growing and is being propelled by the use of technology as demonstrated with his own newly released fitness app. Additionally, this accomplished motivational speaker whose messages center on fitness as a tool for community development, is being featured as a spoken word artist alongside American hip hop performers, Public Enemy, on their upcoming album.
Also participating in the virtual walk was Sir Richie Richardson, former captain of West Indies Cricket Team. He encouraged the participants to cherish Caribbean Wellness Day. “It is so important to remain healthy and look after our body, mind and soul. We have the beautiful climate, sunshine and beaches and we should really use all of this to our advantage to live a healthy lifestyle,” Richardson said.
Caribbean Wellness Ambassadors used the event as an opportunity to showcase unique characteristics of their destinations as part of their fitness demonstrations.
Antigua and Barbuda – Team Island Girls — the Female Row Team that sailed 3,000 miles across the Atlantic. As the first all black female team to row across the Atlantic, the team shared highlights of their historic journey and their fitness routine. They were joined by Rambling Soles Hiking Group on a walk that ended at Shirley Heights.
Dominica – Keep Fit Don’t Quit and Elite Club engaged on a local hike on the north side of the island. The 5-mile hike began at Coconut Beach in Picard to Cabrits National Park and ended at Bell Hall Beach.
Grenada – Keisha Bridgeman of Soca Fit USA and Chrislyn Lashington of Jab in Shape featured some of the unique dance moves from their Grenadian culture that have been adapted into effective fitness techniques.
Montserrat – Delon Searles, Yoga Instructor conducted a group session against a backdrop of the rich landscape of the Emerald Isle.
Saint Lucia – Sweat 758, a fitness group that will launch the Caribbean’s first Wellness Music Festival in 2021 and Soca Fit – a dance and fitness group.
St. Kitts and Nevis – Caribbean Journey Masters and Nevis Sun Tours showcased the rich, lush landscape and historical sites that the destination has to offer.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines – Lindon James, fitness instructor of BeFit Movement and 2018 Wellness Ambassador for the Caribbean Tourism Organization. This group organized a hike of more than 100 participants that ventured through the local Botanical Gardens.
Turks and Caicos – David Bowen – Yoga Wellness Director, Grace Bay Club
Stay Fit Don’t Quit and Elite Club – Dominica
“Because of the pandemic, wellness vacations will be in greater demand and we have so much to offer in the Caribbean. This walk unveiled many unique elements of our Caribbean culture and heritage that have been adapted as part of fitness regimens. It also highlighted a diverse array of options for wellness and rejuvenation of the body, mind and soul that travel advisors can now add to enhance their clients’ itineraries,” said Derede Whitlock, TASC Board Member and Team Leader on Wellness Initiatives.
The event was hosted using ZOOM technology and participants engaged in a simultaneous 30-minute virtual walk, motivated by a live Caribbean DJ Trauma Unit Music. Using a fitness app, participants recorded their activity in “miles and minutes” and posted their results on social media using the social handles #caribbeanwellnesswalk and #caribbeanmilesandmins. A Virtual Fitness Fair featured wellness experts and influencers who provided travel advisors with up-to-date information to address their clients’ health and safety concerns.
The Caribbean Connection Walk for Wellness is a part of TASC’s ongoing campaign to raise awareness about the new experiential landscape in the Caribbean, brought about by a significant shift in health and wellness behaviors and visitor expectations as a result of the pandemic. The event spotlighted the beaches, remote locations, clean air quality and natural environment as just some of the region’s unique selling points that are still in high demand as part of sustainable and authentic wellness and relaxation packages. Following a month-long celebration of National Wellness Month during the month of August, TASC continues to highlight wellness as a growing niche in Caribbean travel.
For more information about the Caribbean Connection Walk for Wellness visit www.tastc.org.