For the first time in nearly 40 years, Caribbean Travel Marketplace, the annual gathering where Caribbean hospitality and tourism professionals meet with regional colleagues and international buyers and sellers, will be staged virtually.

The marketing event, now in its 39th edition, is traditionally held during January, but due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on travel and in-person events, the event will take place online May 11 through 14.

Vanessa Ledesma, acting director general and CEO of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association, which hosts the annual gathering, confirmed that Marketplace organizers are crafting an agenda that will allow participants more time to engage with tour operators, travel advisers, partners, trade and consumer media and influencers, to network, showcase and sell their destinations and services.

Although not meeting face-to-face is a major change, Ledesma is confident that participating in the travel, tourism and hospitality event will deliver many benefits to attendees. “This virtual edition of Marketplace provides access to the world with no restrictions, and opens the event to a broader audience as the logistics of travel are removed, thereby facilitating further connectivity and networking,” she said.

Major destination partnership opportunities are also being developed: “There will be pre-Marketplace components that will help global buyers to gain a better understanding of the destinations and suppliers, and to receive briefings on entry requirements and safety protocols,” said Ledesma.

In its virtual format, Caribbean Travel Marketplace, which typically lasts for just over two days, will be presented over the course of four days in May. According to Ledesma, it is longer than usual because the online format allows them to incorporate supplemental elements without impacting the core buying and selling appointments.

In preparing for its inaugural online format, the Caribbean Travel Marketplace task force reviewed feedback from attendees of previous Marketplace events and analyzed other virtual events to incorporate best practices. The show will seek to maximize attendees’ time and avoid long hours spent in front of a computer screen. Events will be scheduled to accommodate the participation of delegates located in multiple time zones, and will allow for more than one representative per company at pre-scheduled appointments.

“We are excited about the opportunity to develop and execute an event that is representative of our diverse culture and legendary hospitality. Caribbean Travel Marketplace has been a groundbreaker in its 39 years, having held some of the most iconic and memorable events in the region. We are ready to showcase the region and our diverse product offerings to the world virtually,” Ledesma noted.