One-on-One with Carol Hay, from McKenzie Gayle Limited
By Emilia Padín Sixto
Carol Hay served a long tenure as CTO (Caribbean Tourism Organization) director for Marketing UK. After being at the helm of that chapter and leaving the organization in 2019, she founded McKenzie Gayle Limited, a company that trains destinations in sustainable tourism development.
However, Caribbean News Digital sat down in an exclusive interview with Mrs. Hay on a number of issues her vast experience in the sector gives her a powerful voice to talk about them, with unique views and perspectives, such as the Post-Covid 19 situation in the Caribbean, the ongoing drawbacks with the UK market and a whole lot more.
Out of the UK gateway, the flight capacity to the Caribbean has been dramatically reduced. Less people are now confident to fly and the right number of flights to the Caribbean is meager. People most likely to travel right now are those visiting relatives and friends. Even those people traveling to the Caribbean are aware that there are restrictions in place and that many facilities are closed now.
“First of all we’ll have to see what government regulations are put in place before we could predict the impact. The UK is both an inbound and outbound market and I believe strongly the UK will do as much as possible to facilitate inward travel to the UK, and this will facilitate people who travel inward to the UK to travel outward to the Caribbean. I’m also confident that many of the European gateways will open travel and expand services to the Caribbean, such as France, Italy and the Netherlands,” the founder of McKenzie Gayle Ltd. explains.
The Caribbean -Mrs. Hay adds- has handled the Covid 19 pandemic with protocols, clear guidelines and crisis management regulations. What’s more, due to these measures that spill confidence, Mrs. Hay believes the Caribbean will be able to bounce back to the levels the region boasted in 2019.
Others say they are happy to travel to the Caribbean in spite of the fact that those restrictions are in place because of the warm weather, the food and the people.
As to the future of adventure tourism in the Caribbean as stacked up against other segments, such as MICE travel, Mrs. Hay agrees there’s a number of things going on around the world that indicate adventure travel bears watching. Hiking, kayaking or yoga meditation are some of the activities people can do right now because they do not imply larger numbers or concentrations of people.
“One of the advantages of the Caribbean is that even though we have some fantastic resorts, our product also lends itself very well to adventure tourism because there are lots of villas, apartments, local estates and programs, and that kind of accommodation is based on seclusion. So, yes, this particular niche is doing very well and there are some countries, like Guyana, Belize, Dominica, Grenada and Tobago that focus a lot on adventure, hiking, snorkeling, kayaking, so they will continue to offer products that respect the need for social distancing,” Mrs. Hay went on to say.
In addition to being related to CTO for many years, Mrs. Hay is an expert in Caribbean gastronomy and culinary traditions. She believes there are lots of recipes in Caribbean cuisine, like the Jamaican jerk or many stews, that can be cooked outside. “From a gastronomy perspective, the Caribbean has always had a strong reputation for our traditional food, which implies a lot of barbecue cooking. Therefore, the Caribbean style of gastronomy will continue to do very well,” she said.
Back in 2015 during an interview with Caribbean News Digital, Carol Hay said that if Cuba could open up to American travel, the entire Caribbean could benefit from that move. Five years later, Mrs. Hay stands her ground on that assertment.
“Cuba continues to be a destination that’s desirable to the UK and European markets, as well as to the U.S. market, and this is because of the authentic experience, the heritage and the culture. This is what really makes Cuba attractive. I’ve been to Cuba myself and it’s a country that when you get there you can feel the difference,” Mrs. Hay said, hopeful that with a new administration coming to the White House in January, people from North America will have access to Cuba.
After moving to the private sector with a company of her own, Carol Hay has been working diligently to put the Caribbean back on the map, especially now that the raging Covid 19 pandemic has wreaked so much havoc in public confidence.
Her purpose is to make sure people in Europe recover trust in the Caribbean as they used to have back in the days before CTO closed its offices, including the one in London.
“Right now, our focus is on training the travel trade. Covid came in just six weeks after we opened our business. What we’re trying to do right now is reacquaint people with the Caribbean and let them know what’s happening in the Caribbean right now in terms of developments,” she tells Caribbean News Digital.