Caribbean Tourism Pioneer John Bell Passes Away

Caribbean News…
30 April 2024 4:41am
John Bell CHTA

The Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) is currently paying tribute to John Bell, its inaugural executive director who was a pivotal figure in guiding the organization (formerly known as CHA) for nearly thirty years.

Under his dynamic and trailblazing leadership, Bell played a crucial role in defining tourism’s importance in Caribbean economies and transformed the CHTA from a standard trade association to the leading tourism entity for the Caribbean’s private sector.

Bell was instrumental in expanding the association’s influence, uniting hotel and tourism associations across the region, and boosting membership and engagement with CHTA’s initiatives. He spearheaded several foundational projects including the Caribbean Travel Marketplace, the region’s top marketing and networking event, the Taste of the Caribbean culinary event, the Leadership Conference for National Hotel and Tourism Association executives, the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Investment Conference, the Caribbean Hotel Industry Conference (CHIC), the Caribbean Gold Book, the Caribbean Alliance for Sustainable Tourism (CAST), the Caribbean Hotel Training Institute (CHTI), and what is now known as the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Education Foundation (CHTAEF). These initiatives, which were groundbreaking at the time, have continued to fortify and expand both the industry and the association’s membership.

According to CHTA President Nicola Madden-Greig, these programs are a testament to Bell’s lasting impact, positioning CHTA as a significant contributor to the sustainable development of regional and global tourism. Bell’s leadership qualities were further recognized through his election as President of the International Hotel & Restaurant Association from 2003 to 2005.

Vanessa Ledesma, Acting CEO and Director General of CHTA, reflected on Bell’s enduring commitment to enhancing national hotel and tourism associations and membership growth. Bell, who passed away recently, was celebrated with CHTA’s Icon of Hospitality Award in 2019 and the 2022 CHRIS Lifetime Achievement Award.

“During his tenure, visits to member destinations were key, and he made connections with members on the ground. He was a true association executive but foremost he was a leader who laid out the vision and path leading to the establishment of CHTA as the regional voice for the private sector,” said Ledesma, who described Bell as an effective leader and Caribbean ambassador.

Frank Comito, CHTA’s former CEO and Director General, pointed to Bell’s contribution to his own development, describing him as a visionary who made pioneering contributions in areas from sustainable tourism and marketing to education and training over the decades. “We have lost but we have gained,” said Comito, who noted that “if I can name the top five most influential people in tourism, public or private sector and its development in the Caribbean over the last 50 to 60 years, John Bell is in there unquestionably.”

Before leading CHTA, Bell served as President of the Trinidad and Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association from 1971 to 1974, General Manager of Bel Air Hotel in Trinidad from 1967 to 1974, and Assistant Manager of Blue Lagoon Hotel, St. Vincent from 1964 to 1967. His leadership journey at CHA began in 1974, where he also chaired the Small Hotels Advisory Council.

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