Caribbean culture should lead tourism charge

Berthia Parle, the President of the Caribbean Hotel Association, wants Caribbean governments to place arts, culture and music at the top of their tourism agenda.

Speaking at the recent Caribbean Hotel Industry Conference in Miami, the Caribbean hotelier said people around the world love Caribbean culture, and stakeholders ought to get serious about promoting the region’s offerings to international audiences.

She called on governments, ministries of tourism and tourist boards to engage Black Entertainment Television as the region’s premier promotions vehicle given the results the network has delivered to her native St. Lucia and other island nations through the production of jazz and music festivals over the years.

“I really want to thank BET for raising the profile of the Caribbean and of St. Lucia. I know our jazz festival is as successful as it is (through) the involvement of BET from a production standpoint and also from the added visibility that we have received from the television channel.”

She said visitors to St. Lucia have credited BET and the jazz festival for their decision to vacation on the island. “That kind of publicity I don’t think we can ever afford to pay for,” said Parle, who runs the successful Bay Gardens Hotel in Rodney Bay. She also thanked for the network for producing a recent documentary on the small hotel sector in St. Lucia.

“The culture of the Caribbean is infectious and well known the world over,” responded Cybelle Brown, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for BET Digital Networks. Thanking Parle for the “endorsement,” Brown also a St. Lucian, announced that the network will re-double its efforts to capture the spirit of regional festivals and share it with audiences throughout North America and the Caribbean.

This month, the Turks and Caicos Tourist Board, in association with BET Event Productions, will stage its Second Annual Music and Cultural Festival. scheduled for July 25 to August 1, 2005 on the island of Providenciales. Confirmed performers include reggae dancehall pop star Shaggy, chart-topping R&B vocalist Ashanti, funky soul singer Jeffrey Osborne, legendary “cool” voice of reggae Gregory Isaacs, number one Haitian dance band Tabou Combo, gospel/disco queen Candi Staton, contemporary gospel crooner BeBe Winans, as well as some of the Turks and Caicos’ top local artists.

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