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In the air again

Bevan Springer | 12/16/2011, 2:19 p.m.
FRIENDLY SKIES (December 11, 2011)-It's Sunday morning and I am en route to Barbados for...
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FRIENDLY SKIES (December 11, 2011)-It's Sunday morning and I am en route to Barbados for a mere 24 hours with family and friends as part of a grueling three weeks of travel that started in Saint Lucia to follow the Nov. 28 general elections.

After a couple of days in Saint Lucia, it was off to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands for the 20th edition of the Caribbean Media Exchange (CMEx) on Sustainable Tourism, where young people, tourism officials, businesses and the media met to discuss issues ranging from crisis communication to multicultural marketing.

Exploring the theme "Communicating for Clarity and Prosperity," delegates exchanged ideas to enrich the region by spreading the benefits of tourism to the education, culture, environment and health of the Caribbean.

Media representatives were encouraged to clearly communicate to Caribbean people how tourism affects so much of their lives and how far the tourism dollar travels into our island communities.

Communicating honestly and quickly is particularly useful in times of stress. Thus, it was informative to hear how communications professionals deal with crisis management and communication. Real-life experiences under the gun were shared by seasoned professionals like Johnson JohnRose of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO).

Fellow speakers reminded us how, more than other industries, tourism is subject to perceptions-and vulnerable to misperceptions. It was made clear how people often spread misinformation when there is an information vacuum.

From the tropical warmth of St. Thomas, I was off to the wintry chill of Toronto for Caribbean Week activities produced by the CTO.

I addressed a Caribbean Diaspora forum on the power of the region's expatriate community. I reported on how the U.S. Virgin Islands' Department of Tourism was embracing its valued islanders on the mainland through an ambassador program.

While the CTO is constantly criticized for what some perceive as a mediocre approach to marketing the Caribbean, credit must be given to the organization for once again hosting a dynamic, albeit intimate version of Media Marketplace, which attracted Canadian journalists for travel updates from destinations and resorts whose representatives were in town for the celebrations.

Kudos also to my musician mother Kean Springer for the launch of her new CD in Barbados entitled, "Scenes of Nostalgia." It is sure to be not just a Barbadian celebration, but also a Caribbean one later today.

Springer's musical renderings are part of what the late Jamaican professor Rex Nettleford referred to when he insisted that we must promote the musical, cultural and intellectual genius of the Caribbean.

"Scenes of Nostalgia" is a project developed by a Guyanese woman who gave birth to two of her children in Trinidad and Tobago and one in London, and who met her Barbadian husband in Jamaica. It is a powerful and poignant depiction of a melange of cultures defining us as Caribbean people.

We'll land soon in Barbados, then it's back up in the air for the next chapter of this road trip in Boston. Then it will be Christmas, when I finally get to unplug and relax...and no doubt catch up on work and plan for the new year!

Until next week, bon weekend, y'all!