Willemstad, August 28, 2022 – Last week Thursday, CHATA hosted its third membership meeting of 2022, powered by CHATA Member MCB, with the goal to inform all members regarding the recent developments within the sector. The well visited membership meeting was held in theater form at The Movies Curaçao Otrobanda, and focused mainly on industry trends, with presentations by CHATA’s Managing Director, Mrs. Maria-Helena Seferina-Rojas, Mr. Kye Butler, Southeast & Caribbean Regional Sales manager at STR, Mr. Alexander Galarraga, Partner at Booking Success, Mrs. Candice Henriquez, Head of Economic Analysis & Research Department of the Central Bank of Curaçao and St. Maarten and Mr. Lazlo Puczko, Co-founder & CEO of Health Tourism Worldwide.
The first presentation of the morning was a CHATA introduction provided by Mrs. Maria-Helena Seferina-Rojas. Addressing that tourism performance data are breaking records around the world, while inflation, rising energy prices, overcrowded airports and workforce challenges are seen around the global. This is not exception for Curaçao, this happens across the globe. “Usually, world trends tend to arrive with delay on Curaçao, but since the pandemic this doesn’t seem to be the case anymore for our island economy”, stated Mrs. Seferina. While the sector is surpassing all targets, it is evident that revenge travel plays a role here, although fueled by the inflation, this trend will sooner or later slow down or even collapse. She explained that we should be ready for this. The focus should lie on airlift increase and a better source market balance, where we should grow the US and Canada market. Secondly addressing the workforce challenges by opening the market for foreign workers based on certain conditions, fix the education system, train as much people as possible. And parallel to this conduct a national image campaign and show that this sector is the key to a better quality of life for our people, so people choose to study or work for this sector. With this campaign the poor labor conditions or the perception hereof, should be addressed too. Third focus point is to accelerate product development. If we want to grow the number of tourists, which is possible with the growing number of hotel rooms on the island, we also need to expand the number of activities and attractions on the island. Beaches are already quite full; therefore, we need to make sure we have more to offer than only the beaches and make a holiday on our island even more memorable’, stated Mrs. Seferina.
Mr. Kye Butler, on behalf of Smith Travel Research (STR), followed with his presentation and shared various insights on STR’s data and travel sentiment throughout the pandemic till now. By now 45% of the work population booked a holiday since Covid19 hit the world, which still shows opportunity for the sector to grow. Location and value for money are the key drivers for choosing an accommodation, revealed Mr. Butler. Everywhere prices are rising due to inflation and tied labor markets. In the US there is some slowdown in occupancy seen in the July and August figures, which is slightly concerning. The Caribbean travel industry shows strong numbers in terms of recovery, ADR (Average Daily Rate) and RevPAR (Revenue per Available Room) and Curaçao is among the best performing islands in terms of occupancy. Although ADR and RevPar are growing since the pandemic they are still on the low side. July was for Curaçao a great month with 73,7% occupancy and a total room revenue of $21M. This was reported by eleven properties. As the real performance is expected to be higher due to low reporting, Mr. Butler therefore visited various hotels during his stay in Curaçao, to explain the importance of reporting.
Mr. Alexander Galarraga from Booking Success followed and elaborated on the booking journey of travelers and where hotels can improve the conversion to bookings. He provided various tips to improve hotel listings on the various booking sites. Mr. Galarraga concluded with some insights on the Curaçao US Destination campaign, which started one year ago by CHATA with the objective to grow US awareness for Curaçao and ultimately generate more bookings from the US. The campaign is currently running with participating 10 hotels, and CTB and CAP are contributing to the total budget as well. The results look very strong since the start and the hotels that are participating in the campaign are showing 50% growth among others in hotel brand search and direct US revenue growth.
Furthermore, Mrs. Candice Henriquez, Head of Economic Analysis & Research Department of the Central Bank of Curaçao and St. Maarten addressed the membership and spoke about the future of tourism for Curaçao seen from a macro-economic perspective. Mrs. Henriquez emphasized that tourism has become the dominant sector for Curaçao and that there is still a lot of potential. Focusing on niches, sustainability and inclusiveness are according to the Central Bank’s speaker important areas where this potential should be born. Important is also to address and solve the ‘red tape’ as it puts a relatively high burden on investors and also local entrepreneurs, according to Mrs. Henriquez.
The last presentation was given by Mr. Lazlo Puczko, Co-founder & CEO of Health Tourism Worldwide.
All the way from Hungary, Budapest and with extensive experience and expertise on health and wellness destinations, he shared various ideas on how a destination can become more wellnessified. Wellness is after all the new purpose of travelers. Worldwide 73% of the brands need a wellness strategy as the demand for memorable wellness experiences grow. There are many forms of wellness and medical tourism, but Mr. Puczko’s main message was that with very small and simple wellness products or services a destination could improve the travel experience to their destination into to a truly memorable experience. And this is exactly what people and travelers are looking for more and more. In some tourism destinations in the world travelers even pay lots of money to sleep in a 5 start deluxe hotel that has no wifi. Curaçao could develop its own memorable wellness product or service for all travelers, like handing out herb or aloe vera crème against sunburn or offer ‘mondi goat yoga’. All simple, but unique and memorable products and services that differ from the usual mass tourism type of treatments. Even online platform Zoom offers health and wellness breaks on their virtual fitness classes. What about that fitness class to take place on a beach in Curaçao? Mr. Puczko stated that there are basically two target groups in the wellness market. Not Wellness tourists and wellness tourists, the biggest group being the first who are demanding various wellness services and services in general that can improve their overall wellness. This group also appreciates local heritage and natural asset stories. For this group Curaçao has lots to offer and there is much potential. His advice for Curaçao is to develop its own wellness story at different levels and for the implementation a sales guide and mentoring sessions should be provided for all business partners active in the tourism industry.
After a total of five interesting presentations on industry trends, the CHATA membership meeting was concluded by Mrs. Seferina-Rojas who thanked the members for their presence. CHATA Membership meetings are afterall meant to catch up or make new connections, and to inspire, learn new things and get out of the box ideas to grow our local tourism and hospitality organizations. CHATA will continue to update its members on all industry developments and looks forward to continuing working together with all parties to achieve our goals, continue to recover the sector and to connect tourism with the community.