Member governments of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and leaders from entities that generate business to the region meet in Antigua and Barbuda on Friday 4 October for the first CTO Caribbean Tourism Sector Outlook Forum.
Among the senior executives who will speak about their plans, programs and activities is Mike Pezzicola, the head of commercial for JetBlue Travel, who went to JetBlue from Google where he spent the previous five years building out the Google shopping product.
Ahead of the forum, we quizzed him on a number of issues, including the Caribbean tourism product and how the region’s tourism sector should make better use of technology.
CTO: What makes JetBlue the number one carrier to the Caribbean?
MP: For our entire 19-year history, the Caribbean has always been a major focus of JetBlue. JetBlue operates over 1000 flights daily with a third of its route network in the Caribbean. Also, we are proud to have one of our focus cities located in the region at San Juan. We have continually grown our destinations and flights in the Caribbean over time as well as enhanced our service offerings with the addition and expansion of Mint service.
CTO: When you work with member countries to introduce service, what are some of the things you look for?
MP: Our customers are always our first focus. How can we expand our service in a way that excites our existing customers and introduces JetBlue to customers in new markets? Along with our customers, we are of course always looking to form strong partnerships with member countries to determine how we can introduce service in a way that is sustainable and poised for growth for both JetBlue and the member country.
CTO: Do you collaborate with the destinations on marketing? If so, how?
MP: Marketing our awesome destinations is a favorite part of my job. If you explore the JetBlue and JetBlue Vacations websites, you’ll notice how we strive to emphasize not only key attractions but also the unique aspects and culture of Caribbean destinations. We partner with destinations on cooperative marketing efforts for both large campaigns (month long out of home marketing efforts) and even smaller events (such as highlighting local regional sporting or cultural events).
CTO: Based on your experience at Google building out the Google sopping product, and combining Google’s search experience with seamless e-commerce shopping, how must the Caribbean use technology to facilitate travel?
MP: Most customers at the very least begin their inspiration and education for travel using their thumb (searching, scrolling, and exploring on their phone). Your destination must be not only present but ‘come alive’ in mobile placements across the web, with links to simple and fast booking options once a customer shows interest. How can you get customers not only to explore and learn on their phone, but then quickly BOOK as well?
CTO: What are your thoughts on the Caribbean tourism product as it currently stands?
MP: The Caribbean market provides such a wide variety of unique options for customers – which is both an opportunity and a challenge. We together must ensure customers consider the Caribbean as they begin planning their travel but at the same time ensure we leverage your variety of offerings.
CTO: Without going into too many details, please summarise what you intend to share with our member governments at the CTO’s outlook forum?
MP: I look forward to providing some details about the growth of JetBlue Travel over the next few years.
Please note the CTO Caribbean Tourism Sector Outlook Forum is for government members only, including, but not limited to, ministers and commissioners of tourism, directors of tourism, chief executives of destination management organisations, permanent secretaries, advisors and specialists and technical officers.