Differentiation as a Strategy
Emphasizing the unique qualities of each
destination, as well as how the region
overall differs from other parts of the world,
can help all destinations to better compete,
according to Riley. “We know we’re different
from other regions of the world because of
our unique lifestyle, the character of our
hospitality, and the fact that we are Dutch,
English, French, Spanish, African, Asian
and every combination thereof,” he said.
“But it cannot end there. Our Caribbean
countries are constantly finding ways to
distinguish themselves, one from another.
It’s an ongoing challenge to educate
consumers — and yes, even sophisticated
meeting planners sometimes — on the
fact that even though there are some
commonalities, the differences of history,
culture, food, music, topography and
character make each destination unique.”
For the Cayman Islands, working together
and studying competing markets are part
of the strategy for growth, according to
Harris. “We’re a small country, and all the
competitors know each other,” she said.
“We sit down and talk about our Caribbean
competitive set. We strategize, come together
and have an internal incentive program that
helps the destination bid for business.”
The CHTA, meanwhile, aims to create
a more productive environment for
destinations to work with planners. It has
incorporated a MICE component into the
Caribbean Travel Marketplace, the business-to-business tourism marketing event
that next takes place in San Juan, Puerto
Rico from January 30 to February 1, 2018.
“MICE buyers invited to participate
at this event have the unique opportunity
of meeting — in one location — with
suppliers representing more than 68,000
rooms, destinations, transportation providers and attractions representing the entire
Caribbean and Bermuda region and exploring the host destination where the event
takes place,” Comito said. “We continue
to work with hotels and destinations
throughout the region to diversify and
improve our tourism product.” n
Culinary Creativity Provides
Mouthwatering Diversions for Groups
If the fastest way to a group’s heart is through
its stomach, then planners will find lots of ways
to endear themselves to meeting and incentive
participants in the diverse region that includes the
Caribbean, the Bahamas and Bermuda.
In the Bahamas, the new Grand Hyatt Baha Mar is
home to more than 20 food and beverage outlets,
allowing attendees to sip on freshly made daiquiris
or savor casual Bahamian food served from an
eye-catching Airstream food truck. Groups can also make use of venues like 3 Tides,
which has three “open theater” kitchens, Katsuya, which specializes in Japanese
cuisine and Stix, which serves a pan-Asian array of noodles and other favorites.
Local flavor is in focus at properties like the Hilton Rose Hall Resort in Jamaica,
where guests can learn about the art of making jerk chicken, a local specialty, at
the appropriately named Jerk Shack, and also enjoy cocktails made with Jamaica’s
legendary spirits during private catered events.
Puerto Rico is another rewarding place for groups looking to indulge in authentically
local culinary experiences. The San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino offers
a “Guavate in San Juan” program, designed to complement on-site meetings, that
features the island’s legendary roast pork. Named after Guavate, a mile-long stretch
of Puerto Rican countryside that’s been nicknamed the Pork Highway, the Marriott
program includes an open bar with Rums of Puerto Rico brands, as well as hearty
servings of Puerto Rican delicacies like yucca, rice, beans and desserts.
Some of the island’s most popular dishes are also featured at the Sheraton Puerto Rico
Hotel & Casino, which stages a Chef Cook Off that challenges groups to team up and
compete, with expert guidance from the property’s culinary team. No one will go thirsty
during the fast-paced culinary event, thanks to the “mojito experience” feature, which
pairs participants with Sheraton mixologists to create a variety of cocktails.
Like many destinations in the region, the Cayman Islands also provide myriad
opportunities for connecting groups to interesting food and beverage experiences.
The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, for example, is home to a Culinary Studio that
offers cooking classes, demonstrations and gastronomical teambuilding activities.
And at the Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa, the restaurant Avecita has its own
“restaurant within a restaurant” called the Chef’s Counter, where groups of up to 30
can sit down for an interactive meal, as chefs prepare Spanish tapas dishes right in
front of them.
Planners can also treat their groups to a “Flavour
Tour” at Camana Bay, a waterfront town on Grand
Cayman. This guided dining excursion, available
for up to 20 people, starts with a champagne toast
at the West Indies Wine Company, which has a
cellar of 80 vintages. Participants then head out to
sample four small-plate courses, complemented
by cocktail pairings, before wrapping up the
evening at the wine venue for a final drink.