In keeping with its commitment to advance the quality, sustainability and profitability of the tourism industry in the Caribbean, the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) has announced the winners of its 2022 Destination Resilience and Caribbean Hotel Industry Exchange Forum (CHIEF) awards.
Caribbean tourism stakeholders gathered during CHTA’s inaugural Caribbean Travel Forum just prior to the start of the 40th Caribbean Travel Marketplace to celebrate the achievements of their colleagues during a highly anticipated event held at the Caribe Hilton in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
CHTA presented its new Destination Resilience Awards, which were conceived during the COVID-19 pandemic, in recognition of destinations that used innovative, unique and timely responses to the global public health crisis that led to their recovery while maintaining lives and livelihoods. The award considered both internal and external efforts to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on the local tourism industry. For evaluation purposes, destinations were categorized by annual operating budgets.
This year’s CHIEF Awards recognise successful practices CHTA member hotels and tourism-related enterprises have adopted in the areas of business operations, environmental sustainability, human resources and staffing, and sales and marketing in the post-pandemic period. Due to COVID-19, the CHIEF Awards ceremony had not been held since 2019.
Destination Resilience Awards
In the larger tourism destination category, Aruba emerged the Destination Resilience winner, being recognised for its “heart, soul and diligence to restore the lifeblood of the island”. For Aruba, innovation “paved the way to restoration, recalibration and revisitation” through initiatives such as implementing the Aruba Health & Happiness Code and pioneering a collaboration with Ok2Roam.
First runner-up Jamaica was applauded for introducing the JAMAICA CARES programme and successfully positioning Jamaica at the forefront of international tourism recovery by ensuring close inter-sector collaboration, launching a vaccination campaign and leveraging essential resources such as the Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre.
For destinations with smaller annual operating budgets, top resilience honours were awarded to Grenada. The Grenada Hotel and Tourism Association and the Grenada Tourism Authority partnered and strategized together with Grenada’s Ministry of Health to create infection control protocols that served a range of sectors from hospitality to restaurants to taxi and tour services. Through many effective public-private partnerships, quarantine solutions and technology solutions were developed that set the stage for the destination’s eventual recovery.
Nevis was recognised as first-runner up in the category for its efforts to maintain the tourism and hospitality industry’s wellbeing through training and support, internal and external partnerships, embracing virtual events and overall destination management and recovery.
The first-place CHIEF award in the Business Operations category went to The Landings Resort & Spa in St Lucia in recognition of its successful commitment to halting all capital expenditures while keeping 80 employees on staff to maintain the resort, re-engineer menus, and ensure that the right leaders were in place to pivot for the challenging times. First runner-up Tranquility Beach Anguilla Resort formed a Meads Bay Bubble for safety and protection, and its efforts were widely publicised in trade and consumer magazines. There was a tie for second runner-up between Antigua & Barbuda Hotel & Tourism Association, which supported sector employees with the Thrift fund and developed destination protocols, and The Chancellor Hotel in Trinidad, which created new training programs and focused on retaining staff through the pandemic.
Half Moon in Jamaica is the recipient of the CHIEF Award for Best Practice in Environmental Sustainability. The renowned property initiated a farm-to-table project designed to pair self-sustainability with a gastronomy offering to enhance guests’ stays and retained 25 acres of wetland for a Hawksbill turtle habitat. Additionally, they stepped-up their aggressive cardboard, plastic, and graywater programmes. First runner-up award went to Wagstaff Media and Marketing, on behalf of Baha Mar, which employed the Baha Mar Resort Foundation to focus on important issues like disaster recovery, environmental consciousness, youth development, cultural support, and community contribution. Blue Horizons Garden Resort was recognised with second runner-up honours for maintaining its core preservation and conservation programs with a much-reduced staff and managed water and energy usage with new targets.
Grace Bay Car Rentals and Sales took the top spot in Human Resources and Staffing. The company demonstrated superior and innovative commitment to its team, maintaining all staff even as business ground to a halt, supporting Turks and Caicos through the food bank initiatives, and training staff on professional and personal topics. The first runner-up place went to Half Moon, which implemented new technologies to provide access and transparency to its human resources processes and promoted a healthy work-life balance. Wagstaff Media and Marketing, on behalf of Baha Mar, was tagged the second runner-up in the category. The resort implemented a Commitment to Wellbeing program, continued pay and benefits to nearly 6,000 non-essential staff members who were furloughed until the resort reopened in late 2020.
Top Honours for best practice in Sales and Marketing were bestowed upon Aruba’s Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort, which aggressively acted to drive demand and rate as travel returned. The property employed various policies, including a reinstatement of its 30-day cancellation period, and a commitment to travel professionals of no rate increase in 2022 that contributed to a robust rebound. St. Lucia’s Bay Gardens Resorts was first runner-up in this category for its flexible and nimble practices, including free COVID-19 testing, relaxed cancellation policies, and integration of a live chat function on its website. The second runner-up award went to Oceanid Hospitality Group LLC, which drove recovery results for The Landings through a one-stop-shop solution for global sales, revenue, distribution, marketing, public relations and social media, all recast for a post-pandemic market.
A panel of judges representing top industry professionals in their respective areas reviewed all nominations and made their selections. Forty-five nominations from 18 countries were submitted to CHTA and subsequently endorsed by respective national hotel and tourism associations before they were submitted to the panel of judges.