Organized by Caribbean people to promote Caribbean tourism, the inaugural Caribbean Virtual Travel Expo, a collaboration between Travel Advisors Selling the Caribbean (TASC) and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), was launched on June 17th 2021. The one-day virtual event, hosted via v-Fairs, a state-of-the-art 3-D platform, was designed to send a strong message that the Caribbean has reopened safely for business. The theme of the event was “From Survival to Sustainability: Charting the Future Course of Caribbean Tourism.” Representatives from hotels, attractions, airlines, cruise lines and tours provided expert advice, travel deals and free information sessions, to strengthen industry connections and showcase some of the best vacation options in the region.
Some 1425 delegates registered to participate in the 12-hour program which featured 23 sessions and 40 speakers on the Expo’s virtual stage. Presentations geared exclusively towards travel advisors were held between 8am – 5pm and from 5pm – 8pm, the sessions were opened to consumers. The Expo featured four main areas – the Lobby, Exhibit Hall, Auditorium and Networking Lounge and audience engagement was facilitated through webinars, chat rooms, one-on-one chats, live polls and push notifications.
“Thanks to our sponsors, partners, speakers and travel advisors, the Expo was a major success and generated significant interest throughout the Caribbean community. It was designed to strengthen industry connections in innovative ways to give us a competitive edge in the marketplace. As the Caribbean reopens for business, this event allowed us to meet travel advisors where they are, by facilitating key learning and networking opportunities. This on-line platform provided a way to resume business, while we continue to “iron out” issues related to the recovery process,” said Kelly Fontenelle, TASC Founder.
Highlights of the Caribbean Travel Expo
The Expo featured a diverse program line-up of educational and experiential presentations that included:
- Product and cultural presentations from Sponsors: Belize, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, Saint Lucia, Dreamy Weddings and Sandals and Beaches Resorts.
- Keynote Address: Delivered by Dr Didacus Jules, Director General of the OECS about the Current Impact of Caribbean Tourism and Future Opportunities.
- Educational sessions: Professional topics such as LinkedIn, Pinterest, Storytelling, Email and SEO marketing to enhance skills building and strengthen sales and marketing strategies.
- Panel discussions: Insights from travel industry officials and destination leaders about the state of the industry and the future outlook, post-pandemic.
- Sustainable initiatives: Recognizing a greater desire for responsible and authentic travel, the Youth Forum featured 3 Caribbean youth-owned businesses, built on sustainability practices.
- Caribbean talent: A Tribute to St. Vincent and the Grenadines following the recent volcano eruption. It featured performer Skinny Fabulous, five-time Soca Monarch winner of the country and Jamaican cultural performer Dr. Amina Blackwood- Meeks. Veteran Caribbean broadcaster, Julian Rogers, MBE hosted the Opening Ceremony.
- Mind of the Advisor Polls: Audience insights to gauge the perceptions and intentions of travel advisors.
- Prize Bank: Featuring over 15 Caribbean experiences.
Caribbean suppliers engaged delegates in one-to-one consultations and accessed downloadable content such as brochures, presentations and videos. Representatives of these Caribbean brands discussed itinerary suggestions and special promotions and offers, providing travel advisors with the inspiration to sell more Caribbean travel experiences. The list of exhibitors were:
- Antigua and Barbuda Hotels Association
- The Bahamas
- British Virgin Islands
- Cayman Islands
- Saint Lucia
- Sandals and Beaches Resorts
- Travel Advisors Selling the Caribbean
- United States Virgin Islands
In this common area, attendees could increase their knowledge by engaging in live chats with sponsors, exhibitors, speakers or their peers. They were opportunities to share opinions, provide information, ask questions, expand their network of contacts and generate business opportunities.
“Virtual events make it possible to continue to broaden learning opportunities and engagement in the travel industry at this critical time. Throughout the Expo, we prioritized education, networking and entrepreneurship, to support travel advisors and suppliers as they rebuild their business. Virtual events provide a cost effective, safe and measurable option for suppliers to spend their marketing dollars and we expect that more Caribbean destinations will leverage this promotional tool to enhance their sales,” said Derede Whitlock, Senior Administrator at TASC.
TASC is a private organization of over 8,300 travel professionals who connect digitally, to seek opportunities for sales networking, connection, education, and advocacy. The TASC Facebook Group has become a catalyst for trends in marketing the Caribbean in a post-COVID era. It has grown beyond its travel advisor foundation to welcome destination marketers, hotels, airlines, cruise lines, travel media, and passionate entrepreneurs who highlight travel experiences that amplify Caribbean tourism. www.tastc.org
The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) is an International Organisation dedicated to economic harmonisation and integration, protection of human and legal rights, and the encouragement of good governance among independent and non-independent countries in the Eastern Caribbean. The OECS came into being on June 18th 1981, when seven Eastern Caribbean countries signed a treaty agreeing to cooperate with each other while promoting unity and solidarity among its Members. The Treaty became known as the Treaty of Basseterre, so named in honour of the capital city of St. Kitts and Nevis where it was signed. The OECS today, currently has eleven members, spread across the Eastern Caribbean comprising Antigua and Barbuda, Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St Vincent and The Grenadines, British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, Martinique and Guadeloupe. www.oecs.org
About the Caribbean Virtual Travel Expo
The Caribbean Travel Virtual Expo was designed to offer unique and interactive digital marketing sessions and networking opportunities to instruct, excite, and ignite the passions of valued travel advisors and inspire them to set new records in Caribbean tourism sales. The event is entirely digital and highly interactive, 100% free and open to all travel professionals, regardless of skill sets, experience levels and niche focus. www.caribbeantravelexpo.vfairs.com
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