The Caribbean Makes a Comeback

Make No Mistake, Most Island Destinations Are Going Strong and Ready to Welcome Groups

From first-contact. and along the event continuum from visualization to execution, it is the intricacy of our attention to the finer details, the anticipation of your experiences that craft the memorable and deliver expertly personalized solutions. With a flair for the creative, we are constantly in the pursuit of dynamic and novel elements for our clients. As a multilingual DMC, we are fully competent and happy to cater to our Portuguese, French and Spanish-speaking clients and open up the wonders of Barbados to you. With our team facilitating every stage of your journey, we offer the luxury of perfection and peace of mind; That is the Blu Isle Difference. If you can imagine it, we can make it a reality

Irma and Maria tore across the Caribbean in September and October of 2017. The damage to some islands was catastrophic, with full recovery still many months away. Other islands were completely untouched by the hurricanes. For them, bright sun and tranquil blue seas bring business as usual. And for a few islands, it’s a mix.

What stands out most in the aftermath of Irma and Maria is the resilience and heart of the people of the Caribbean. The stories told over and over about the hurricanes are of hotel workers staying in the hotels without water, power and little food to help the guests stranded there — even while their own homes were destroyed. The stories emerging now about the rebuilding of resorts, hotels, airports, cruise ports and other venues are how the people of these islands manage to see this as a gift, a chance to upgrade and improve, in order to better serve the visitors to come.

Tourism, including groups and conferences, is the lifeblood of this region and the truth is there is no reason to cancel many of the 2018 programs already booked. Much of the region is up and running. Even Puerto Rico, which suffered unimaginable devastation from Maria, has already welcomed its first conference of 2018.

True, not every hotel has reopened. But they will. The Caribbean is ready to welcome planners, to show them how things have already improved and how things will be even better in the months to come. Here are a few islands to consider.


Well below the region’s traditional hurricane belt, Aruba had no physical impact from Maria or Irma. Planners can expect their 2018 experience to be very much what it has always been.

Kimberly Findlay, senior account manager with SDI Meetings & Incentives, brought a group of 110 from the Northeast United States to Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino in April 2017 for a premium incentive program. She mentions the quality airlift, nightlife, beaches and food as top reasons for choosing Aruba.

“The island is friendly, Dutch, and has great food and drinking water,” she says. “There are big, beautiful beaches and the palapas (thatched-roof tiki huts) are a big hit.”

In addition to functions at the hotel, the group also experienced dine-arounds and traveled on the island’s amusingly distinctive Kukoo Kunuku buses. She calls it all “exceptional.”

The resort gets excellent marks from Findlay for both price and location, but she also notes that it offers an abundance of ocean-view rooms, ideal for incentive participants. She really liked the “complimentary white-washed, family-style tables” they used and adds that, “The sushi bar and Starbucks were both big hits.”

Findlay says there were no real challenges in planning and executing a meeting on Aruba or at the Marriott. In terms of personnel, she says Jessika Panneflek, event manager on property, stands out. To other planners considering the Marriott she suggests, “Get some reserved palapas in your contract. Get as many oceanview rooms as possible in your contract.  Don’t do all-inclusive as there are so many great restaurants on the beach and surrounding area that you should try while you’re there. Definitely,” she adds, “do the Kukoo Kunuku busses — they’re so fun for people. Also, do the tattoos and party hats, and try kite surfing.”


Sandy Lane in Barbados falls into the legendary category and has long upheld its reputation for quality, exclusivity and service, making it an ideal destination for incentives. Gai A. Spann, founder and “travel artist” at SPANNing the Globe Tours and a consultant for a meetings and incentive company, has high praise for the property and the island.

“For incentive groups, a unique, luxury destination is desirable. Barbados provides an upscale Caribbean experience and boutique luxury accommodations. The island has an excellent culinary reputation, amazing natural beauty and options for activities.”

She notes that the island and hotel lend themselves well to smaller groups. Recently she brought 30 incentive qualifiers from a U.S.-based pharmaceutical company to Sandy Lane. “You’re able to privatize experiences, meaning entire hotel buyouts, private restaurant dining and setting up beautiful tented events. All work well with a group not too large,” she says.

One off-property highlight is a function at a rum distillery on this island that claims itself as the birthplace of rum. “The facilities were gorgeous and unique as it’s set in what feels like a forest,” Spann says. “The staff, food and service were personalized and extraordinary.”

Sandy Lane’s attributes include, “the level of service, quality and location,” though Spann notes that planners should not be surprised that “everything is a la carte.”

She points out that most of the hotels on Barbados are small to medium size, so there’s rarely an issue with distance from guest rooms to meeting space. Shipping, however, can be an issue and Spann encourages planners to “make sure you send items ahead of time with enough time to clear customs.”

She has two other recommendations. “For catering, it’s good to include local cuisine in the offerings,” she says. “And definitely use a local DMC and start early in your planning cycle. Our DMC, Nicholas Alleyne from Blu Isles, made planning much easier. As a local business, I was able to have him on island to confirm certain requests. His knowledge of the island and relationships with key players made our experience VIP.”

Beyond that, Spann adds, it’s a good idea to visit Barbados early on to find out if offsite locations will work for your group or not.

Alleyne wants meeting planners and their groups to know that Barbados has even more to offer. “Barbados represents the best in authentic Caribbean charm, expertly blended with state-of-the-art conference facilities and an ever intriguing repertoire of attractions and events. This unique combination of a timeless je ne sais quoi, the warmth of its people, advanced development, high amenity value and the island’s security make Barbados a leading choice for the North American market,” he says.

He points out that Barbados is well connected in terms of airlift with direct flights from across the United States and Canada. “Once you get here, the quality mix of leading global brands and local hoteliers provide a range of options from the luxurious to the more traditional. The island,” he adds, “expertly blends modern amenities with an authentic Bajan experience.”

Just as important, Alleyne says the government is very supportive to the meetings industry. “There are duty waiver programs for incentives as well as other concessions.”

Blu Isles curates a range of diverse, culturally rich and fun experiences for groups, from culinary excursions to breakfasts with George Washington (sort of) who once visited Barbados to extravaganzas in the island’s evocative caves and more.

“We know the state-of-the-art facilities, the legal and economic concessionary infrastructure, financial planning, and the range of support services needed to flawlessly execute your conference. Details matter,” Alleyne says. “Leave them to us.”



Blu Isles leverages its team’s intimate local knowledge, international experience, and strong network of premium partners to curate the unforgettable.

An Amazing DMC & Team

  • Blu Isles curates a range of diverse, culturally rich and fun experiences for groups, from culinary excursions to breakfasts with George Washington (sort of) who once visited Barbados to extravaganzas in the island’s evocative caves and more.

    Gai Spann
    Gai Spann Spanning The Globe Tours