“Although I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink; instead, I hope to come to you and talk with you face to face” – 2 John 12

I recently had the privilege of attending the 41st Caribbean Hotel and Tourism (CHTA) Caribbean Travel Marketplace, held in my native Barbados for the very first time.

This event served as a powerful reminder of the importance of personal, face-to-face meetings in our rapidly evolving digital world. While virtual interactions have become the norm during the pandemic, the energy and impact generated by in-person gatherings cannot be replicated online.

One moment that truly highlighted the significance of an in-person presence was Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley’s impassioned address at the opening of the Caribbean Travel Forum. Her call for the Caribbean to become “shapers” rather than “takers” would have been noteworthy in a written article or during a virtual meeting, but being present in the room with a diverse group of participants from numerous countries was truly electrifying. The atmosphere was charged with excitement, and the PM’s words sparked conversations and inspired action throughout the three-day Marketplace.

The power of face-to-face meetings lies in the dynamic nature of human interaction. The ability to read non-verbal cues, such as body language and facial expressions, adds depth and nuance to the communication process.

Engaging with others in person allows for immediate feedback, fostering a sense of connection and understanding that cannot be fully captured in virtual exchanges.

During the Marketplace, as I wandered through the exhibits showcasing tourism companies and industry-related organizations, I could feel the palpable air of optimism. It was evident that the face-to-face interactions facilitated by CHTA brought people closer together, both personally and professionally. The bonhomie and camaraderie that emerged from these encounters resulted in the development of productive business relationships and the renewal and formation of friendships.

Moreover, the physical gathering allowed for the rekindling of connections that had been weakened by the isolating effects of the pandemic. As individuals reacquainted themselves with one another, they recognized the value of aligning their efforts for the greater good of all. The shared experiences and discussions during the event created a sense of solidarity and reignited the spirit of collaboration within the Caribbean tourism community.

CHTA, the regional private sector voice for Caribbean tourism, deserves praise for its role in bringing people together again. By organizing the Caribbean Travel Marketplace, they provided a platform where individuals could connect, share ideas, and forge meaningful partnerships.

I would also like to commend the Barbados government and the local tourism association for their outstanding hospitality and execution in hosting such a successful event.

As we navigate the evolving landscape of business and tourism, let us remember the power of coming together, sharing our visions, and working collaboratively to shape a brighter future for the Caribbean.

Now it’s time for the follow-up, the execution of contracts, the refreshing of our databases and LinkedIn connections, and further reflection on how we, as Caribbean tourism stakeholders, can bring our expertise to the marketplace as sellers of our own products and services. We are not here to replace traditional buyers in the marketplace but to collaborate and increase our share of the world tourism pie.

Allow me to close with the stirring words of Prime Minister Mottley: “I don’t want to hear if the speech is good or bad, I want to hear that the hoteliers of the region have determined that they will not simply, in a post-independence era, be a taker of circumstances shaped by others to profit others, but that we shall be shapers of our destiny. Or, as the national anthem of Barbados says, firm craftsmen of our fate.”

(Dr. Basil Springer GCM is a Change-Engine Consultant. His email address is basilgf@marketplaceexcellence.com. His columns may be found at www.nothingbeatsbusiness.com).