by Loren G. Edelstein | November 07, 2017
It's business as usual for nearly 100 participants of Northstar Meetings Group's Destination Caribbean event at the Westin Grand Cayman. A welcome reception Monday night featured official remarks from Mr. Stran Bodden, chief officer for the Ministry of District Administration, Tourism and Transport for the Cayman Islands. The event, initially scheduled for mid-September, had been postponed by Northstar because many participants had been affected by the season's hurricanes.
 
In this morning's remarks, Matt Cooper, chief marketing officer for the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association, noted, "75 percent of the region is unaffected by the storms. But public perception is otherwise, that the entire Caribbean has been wiped off the map. We do have an expansive region that is very much open for business. I ask you to carry that message with you to understand - and to help others understand - the great variety of options we have in a region that is ready to welcome you with open arms."
 
Cooper added, "My job description has changed in recent months," referencing how he is closely involved in fundraising efforts spearheaded by One Caribbean Family to raise support for the Caribbean Tourism Recovery Fund through Tourism Cares. Among serving other critical needs, the fund will help displaced tourism workers find temporary jobs, as well as create "voluntourism" programs, inviting people to come and help the islands rebuild, even if for short periods of time.
 
Northstar Meetings Group, of which M&C is a part, is a supporter of that effort and has encouraged participants of Destination Caribbean to leverage their collective resources, influence and compassion to provide aid through the fund.
 
The CHTA also is helping to find temporary job placement for displaced hospitality workers. "We're finding people work through exchange programs that involve pay, clean uniforms and a place to sleep," said Cooper.
 
"Tourism is the quickest way, economically, that we're going to get these islands back on their feet," Cooper added. To that end, he said, the CHTA is putting its words into action: "We have recommitted ourselves to the government of Puerto Rico to host our Caribbean Travel Marketplace in the end of January." That event will bring about 1,200 delegates to San Juan's Puerto Rico Convention Center. "It's all of the government tourism boards, hotel companies big and small, and our strategic partners and sponsors," Cooper noted. "In addition to tourism operators, OTAs, the event now includes MICE buyers, as well."
 
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