Last week I was in St. Thomas speaking at the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) Small Hotels Retreat and have to admit it was one of the best conferences I have attended in quite some time.

Sponsored by HSMAI there were more than 250 attendees including hoteliers, allied members and suppliers.  What impressed me most however, besides the quality of the material presented, was the amount of interaction taking place between all three constituents.   It was obvious everyone was interested in gathering information and putting it to use in an effort to put the past behind and start down the path to recovery.

Lindsay Culbreath, Director of Sales for Smith Travel Research offered insights into the State of the Caribbean Hotel Industry. Although only 20% of Caribbean Hotels are currently reporting their numbers to STR Lindsay showed the impact of the current recession on the Caribbean hotel industry by reporting the following RevPAR figures:

2006 2007 2008 2009
(thru Aug)
RevPAR +5.1 +7.2 – 14.5 -22.9

Not the prettiest of pictures.  STR is looking for Caribbean hotels to participate in its confidential industry survey which can only help hotels be more competitive in the future.  Every Caribbean hotel should participate and can by contacting Linsday at 615 824 8664.  For those hotels that do – your first year’s subscription to STR Reports will be free.

John Fareed, who helped organize the conference, spoke about “Winning Social Media Strategies for Small Resorts” and was as entertaining and insightful as always.  Professor Eric Brey from the University of Memphis offered hoteliers a framework from which to assess and and deliver a Memorable Customer Experience.  And today, surviving in the competitive hospitality arena – it is all about delivering and excellent guest experience.

If you would like a copy of Professor Brey’s presentation on  “Driving Revenue – Creating Memorable Guests Experiences” you can contact him at ericbrey@memphis.edu.  Just mention you found out about it in Hospitality Marketing Blog.

There were 12 different round-table presentations held during the two-day conference and every one was very well attended.  Each table was set up for ten people and in most cases seating was two and three rows deep as hoteliers crowded around to hear the latest in marketing and operations.

Jamie Holmes, general manager of Nisbet Plantation and I presented a Case Study on “A Small Luxury Hotel That Prospered in Difficult Times.”  We gave two separate presentations and in the end ran out of Case Study reprints.  I am in the process of updating the Study and will summarize it next week on Hospitality Marketing Blog.  You will also be able to download the full Case Study so look for details next week.

Alec Sanguinetti, Director General and CEO of CHTA, announced at the meeting that the Small Hotels Retreat has earned a permanent place on the roster of CHTA events and that plans are already being made for next year’s event.  Of course details will follow.  Seriously though, if you represent a small Caribbean hotel or have a product or service that a small hotel could benefit from I would strongly urge you to plan on attending next year’s event.

Safe Travels – Madigan Pratt

AUTHOR: Madigan Pratt

Madigan Pratt is President of MP&A Digital & Advertising, an award-winning agency helping luxury hotels attract and retain profitable customers. Principals with over 60 years of collective experience at some of the world's largest advertising and direct marketing companies lead the agency's team of marketing, creative, public relations, Internet and social media professionals.

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