Caribbean news. “If we seriously put our resources together we could certainly achieve the 30 million visitor goal we have our eye on.”

Caribbean Tourism Organization secretary general Hugh Riley said this as he introduced the keynoter at the State of the Industry Conference. Here’s a transcript of the address:

Hon. Donna Christian Christensen
Hon. Beverly Nicholson Doty
Hon. Dr. Rufus Ewing
Hon. Karine Roy-Camille
Hon. Carlyle Tearr
Hon. Jeanne Rogers Vanterpool
Hon. Dr. Wykeham McNeill
Hon. Ricky Skerritt, St. Kitts & Nevis
Hon. Tracy Davidson Celestine of Tobago
Hon. Lorne Theophilus
Members of the Board of Directors of the CTO
Mr. Richard Doumeng, Chairman of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association
Mr. Emil Lee, President of the CHTA
Speakers and Panelists

Hugh Riley. Photo courtesy

Hugh Riley. Photo courtesy

During the next two days you’ll be welcomed and embraced, informed and entertained, challenged and stimulated.

You’ll open your mind to new ideas, and question the status quo. Truth is, that describes many CTO events.

But what’s different about this one, is the venue. What a beautiful destination the USVI is! The incredible hospitality and the warmth of the welcome we’ve received will live on in our memories long after we leave St. Thomas. In fact I’m sure we would much rather be outside savoring the joys of this island or skipping over to St. John or St. Croix, but we do have some work to do.

So, on behalf of the Chairman of the Council of Ministers and Commissioner of the CTO, the Hon. Richard Sealy, I welcome you to the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s annual State of the Industry Conference. Realizing the Vision; Positioning Caribbean Tourism for Major Change.

As we ponder the true meaning of Realizing the Vision, and shudder at the challenges that lie ahead, we have the comfort of knowing we’re in the company of some of this industry’s sharpest minds. The body of knowledge in this room could power the Caribbean’s tourism industry to incredible success. If we seriously put our resources together we could certainly achieve the 30 million visitor goal we have our eye on.

Alex Zozaya.

Alex Zozaya.

But a word of caution to all of us in Caribbean tourism: Realizing the vision is more than simply hitting one particular target. Our vision isn’t just numerical. Sure, it’s that too.

But being the most desirable destination speaks powerfully to the way we make our visitors feel. Not just what we say to them when we’re trying to attract them here, but how we make them feel when they’re here, sharing our space and breaking bread with us.

You see, what we export, what we package, sell and ask our visitors to take back with them, are superb experiences; memories which they can share with their loved ones. Those are the stories they tell the whole world. The way we deliver Caribbean hospitality will determine whether our visitors keep coming back, keep loving us, and keep recommending us to their loved ones.

That’s being desirable. It’s also being sustainable. And what good is it to be desirable, if we’re not able to sustain it. We intend to be the most desirable, year-round, warm-weather destination.

And now to the main order of business.
Keynoting the CTO’s State of the Industry Conference is a high honour. This year that honor belongs to Alex Zozaya, CEO of Apple Leisure Group, the world’s largest provider of vacation business to the Caribbean.

Alex was the founding President and CEO of AM Resorts and is a seasoned professional occupying senior positions at major brands, giving leadership to one of the world’s most competitive industries and making him eminently well-qualified to keynote this conference. His full bio is in the program booklet. In addition to what’s there, you should know that Alex, as an avid scuba diver, greatly supports the protection of underwater life, and maintains a special fondness for sharks. With no fear, he enjoys swimming among them, and is a great advocate of conservation efforts to preserve their populations.

Alex and his family are also active supporters of Amigos de Jesus, an orphanage which accepts abandoned, abused and impoverished children in Honduras and provides them a home, education and stability.

He also contributes to Nurturing Minds in Africa, a U.S.-based non-profit organization working to change our world through the education and empowerment of vulnerable girls in Tanzania.
Ladies and gentlemen, I’m proud to introduce our keynote speaker, Mr. Alex Zozaya