Popularity of Caribbean Is Surging for Events and Incentives

Northstar's Destination Caribbean in Aruba brought together 90 participants for one-on-one appointments, education and the host island's legendary hospitality. 

The opening reception for Destination Caribbean was held at host property The Ritz-Carlton, Aruba,. Photo Credit: Lisa Grimaldi

The Caribbean, the top international destination for incentives according to the latest Incentive Pulse Survey, remains a hot market, according to planners who attended Northstar Meetings Group's Destination Caribbean, which took place July 17-20 on the beautiful island of Aruba. 

"The Caribbean is definitely very, very popular right now and continues to be even more so looking forward," noted Craig Dooley, president of SDI Meetings & Incentives, during "The Plain Truth: A Planner Panel Discussion," held during the event. He noted that he is even booking Caribbean events for fall 2021 and 2022, despite it being hurricane season. "There's no dampening of interest; it's ramped up higher than ever." 

While much of his business in the region for 2021-2022 is rebooked meetings and incentives that were postponed due to the pandemic, he added that clients are already hoping to book Caribbean programs as far out as 2024.

The destination is so in-demand that it may be too popular, according to the panel, which also included Diane Murray, president of Options4Meetings; Melanie Sell, senior program manager at First Incentive Travel; and Lori Thomas Budin, vice president at HPN. They noted difficulty in booking space at Caribbean hotels and resorts, as well as rising rates.

Melanie Sell revealed that when she tried to book a group at a Puerto Rican resort, the property didn't have enough rooms available to house all the attendees. "We had to upgrade to give everyone the same category of guest room, which bumped the rate up," she said. "Thankfully, my client was fine with that."

Another hot topic of discussion involved what to do about shortfalls in a property's service, such as lack of daily guest room housekeeping, which is prevalent now as hotels try to restaff. That was addressed by legal expert Jonathan T. Howe during another education session. "If it's important to the success of your event, put it in the contract," he said. "Do not make assumptions that just because a hotel says it's a full-service property that means it includes things like daily housekeeping." 

In addition to education, the Destination Caribbean program offered a warm bon bini (welcome in the local Papiamento language), highlighted Aruba's splendid venues, activities and hospitality, and hosted face-to-face appointments between buyers and planners. 

The 90 participants followed Northstar's stringent health protocols, which adhered to CDC and local regulations (masks were required for those not vaccinated, unless they were actively eating or drinking). Additionally, daily temperature checks were taken each morning.

Among the partners that helped make the event a success were the Aruba Convention Bureau for showcasing the beautiful island; the host property, The Ritz-Carlton, Aruba; Eco Destination Management Services, for DMC services; and Maui Jim, which sponsored the Day 2 education session. Other sponsors included Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino; the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino; and the Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino, which hosted for our closing dinner on the beach.

You can view, download and share photos from Destination Caribbean with credit to OneHappyPhotographer.