CHIEF Conference: Pioneering the future of Caribbean hospitality

CHTA President Nicola Madden-Greig acknowledged there remain challenges, particularly in air connectivity and high costs, which could impede the industry’s continued growth.

MIAMI, FL – The Caribbean Hospitality Industry Exchange Forum (CHIEF), hosted by the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) earlier this month in Miami, concluded with resounding success, unveiling a roadmap for the future of the hospitality industry.

During the opening session, CHTA President Nicola Madden-Greig, OD, shared an ambitious vision for the future of Caribbean hospitality.

Underscoring the conference’s theme, “A New Era of Tourism: Balancing Tradition, Technology and Community”, she highlighted encouraging industry statistics. Despite a global downturn in inbound tourism, the Caribbean is surpassing the trend with a 17% increase.

“We want to look at the next level of Caribbean tourism, taking it beyond recovery, beyond growth, and into the stratosphere. Our goal is to learn about how destinations have succeeded in recovery, the best practices, and how we can share those insights for us all to move in that direction. We must continue to have seamless collaboration and coordination with both industry and government and with each other to reach new heights,” Madden-Greig remarked.

During the conference, industry leaders, innovators, hospitality professionals and influencers passionately explored crucial themes shaping the sector. These topics included navigating a rapidly evolving landscape due to technology innovations, increasing air connectivity, advancing responsible tourism practices, fostering collaborations, and prioritizing people development.

Tech Influence: The transformative impact of technology on the hospitality landscape was a recurring theme. Discussions examined how artificial intelligence, contactless experiences, and data-driven insights are shaping the future of guest services and operational efficiency. Maintaining the irreplaceable human touchpoints of a skilled workforce was also emphasized.
Air Connectivity: Acknowledging the importance of seamless travel experiences, the conference examined the significance of air connectivity. Conversations revolved around multi-destination travel, expanding routes from existing and emerging markets, and seeking affordable fares.
Responsible Tourism: Sustainability in tourism was another focus at the conference with delegates hearing from the Foundation for Environmental Education, one of the world’s largest environmental education organizations; Fauna & Flora, the world’s first environmental conservation organization; and Re:wild, which protects and restores the wild, among other activities. Attendees discussed best practices at the property level and regional actions that must be taken to ensure the hospitality industry remains a steward of the environment.
Business Partnerships: Conference delegates explored strategies to establish robust business relationships and foster entrepreneurship, ensuring tourism revenue benefits local economies. Collaborative efforts and partnerships were spotlighted as essential tools to enhance the economic impact of tourism.
People Development: Recognizing the pivotal role of human capital in the industry, the conference explored strategies for personnel development. Sessions focused on nurturing talent, promoting leadership, and fostering inclusive environments within the hospitality workforce.
Authentic Cultural Experiences: Participants explored avenues for delivering authentic cultural experiences to visitors, celebrating the Caribbean’s rich diversity and heritage. Discussions highlighted wellness initiatives and themed festivals for cultural immersion. Emphasis was placed on the importance of local traditions, creative arts, and cuisines to create a more immersive and memorable guest experience. A highlight of the event was a live performance from St. Lucia soca artist Ezra “D’FunMachine” Augustin – a CHIEF Conference first!

“Attending CHIEF for the first time, I found the experience insightful. Each of the engaging topics covered were relevant for both the industry and the region. I look forward to going back next year,” commented Mariela Gomez Meza, Marketing Manager of Hilton Barbados Resort.

Session panelists and moderators were leaders in the regional and global tourism industry, including:

Sanovnik Destang, Executive Director, Bay Gardens Resorts, and First Vice President, CHTA
Barry Collymore, Executive Chairman, Mount Cinnamon Beach Resort, and Founder, West Indies School for Hospitality
Tata Crocombe, Executive Chairman, The Rarotongan Beach Resort Group, Cook Islands, South Pacific
Neil Foster, Senior Technology and Process Improvement Consultant, Tech-Tonic Hospitality Services, and Immediate Past President, Hospitality Finance & Technology Professionals (HFTP)
Philipe Moura, Director of Data & Services, Mastercard
Bill Clegg, Regional Director of Development, Mid-Atlantic US and Caribbean Regions, BWH Hotels, and Fifth Vice President, CHTA
Jeff Pankey, President, Figment Design
Jules Sobion aka Julius CZAR, CEO/Commander-In-Chief, Caesar’s Army
Sergio Rosarios, Regional Vice President for Latam & the Caribbean, Amadeus/Travelclick
Dr. Michael Cheng, Dean, Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management, Florida International University
Dr. Dimitrios Diamantis, Executive Academic Dean, Les Roches Switzerland
Dr. Andrew Spencer, President, Caribbean Maritime University

Acting CEO and Director General of CHTA, Vanessa Ledesma, commented, “As the curtains close on the CHIEF meeting, the industry stands united, armed with insights and commitments, to drive positive change. The outcomes of this gathering signal a collective determination to create a more diverse, sustainable and technologically advanced future for hospitality. CHTA is committed to leading the way in providing our members and stakeholders the tools and resources to further this advancement.”

Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.

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