Some of the brightest stars in regional tourism shared top honours when the leading travel brands from across the Caribbean and the Americas were showcased at a World Travel Awards (WTA) ceremony hosted at Beaches Turks and Caicos Resort Villages and Spa on Friday.
VIPs, senior tourism figures, and international media from over 30 nations congregated at the WTA's Caribbean and The Americas Ceremony 2012, part of an awards programme hailed as the "Oscars of the travel industry".
Jamaica bagged the top award of "Caribbean's Leading Destination", acknowledging its continuing rise up the global tourism order and enhancing its status as the country to beat in regional tourism.
Other nations that shone at the event included St Lucia, which won the coveted title of "Caribbean's Leading Honeymoon Destination" and Coco Reef Resort in Tobago, which picked up "Caribbean's Leading Hotel". Sir Richard Branson's Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands was voted "Caribbean Leading Private Island".
Buccaneer Bay Spa & Resort (St Vincent) edged ahead of The Hotel Chocolat (St Lucia), Hotel Riu Palace Bavaro (Dominican Republic),The Magdalena Grand Beach Resort (Tobago) and Cofresi Palm Beach and Spa Resort (Dominican Republic) to win "Caribbean's Leading New Hotel."
Meanwhile, Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) was voted "South America's Leading Destination," ahead of the likes of Easter Island (Chile), the Galapagos Islands (Ecuador) and Machu Picchu (Peru).
Cancun (Mexico) placed ahead of Bay Islands (Honduras), San Jose (Costa Rica), Los Cabos (Mexico) and Granada (Nicaragua) to win the "Mexico and Central America's Leading Destination" title. Copa Airlines was named "Mexico and Central America's Leading Airline".
In North America, Las Vegas headed-off competition from New York, Miami, San Francisco, Montreal, and Vancouver to win the "North America's Leading Destination" title. New York copped the "North America's Leading City Break Destination" title, while American Airlines was voted "North America's Leading Airline".
The WTA awards programme highlights and rewards those travel brands that have made the greatest contribution to the industry over the past year.
Graham E Cooke, President and Founder of WTA, underlined the depth and quality of the travel and tourism sector across the Caribbean and the Americas.
"Our winners are also drawn from the breadth of the Caribbean and the Americas, reflecting the strength and depth of the travel and tourism sector in the regions. I am sure these organizations will fare strongly in our Grand Final, which takes place in New Delhi, India on December 12, 2012.
"The ceremony has also served as a glittering spotlight for Turks and Caicos " a paradise nation that has welcomed a record number of tourist visitors over the past year. This is testament to its overwhelming natural attractions, its luxury hospitality facilities and its rich local heritage," Cooke said.
Gordon "Butch" Stewart, Chairman of Sandals Resorts International, said: "We are honored to receive the highest number of awards in Sandals Resorts' history. We always strive for excellence, and continue to invest in our product so that each year we can be proud to say we are the Caribbean's Leading Hotel Brand."
Ralph Higgs, Director of Tourism, Turks and Caicos Tourist Board, said: "The Turks and Caicos Islands Tourist Board congratulates the winners and the nominees for this year's World Travel Awards. With another 30 nations represented at these awards, we hope that each of you will take a piece of our islands home with you, etched in your memory forever. Congratulations again and we do hope to see you here in the future as we celebrate and acknowledge the brightest and best in the global hospitality industry."
Reigning Miss Bahamas, Anastagia Pierre, co-hosted the show with American actor and comedian Walt Willey. Leading Caribbean vocalists, including Shawn Campbell and Elroy Simmons, performed at the event, which was supported by the Turks and Caicos Tourist Board and Scotiabank.
Other WTA Grand Tour 2012 regional heats include Dubai (UAE), Algarve (Portugal), and Singapore. The winners of these legs will go head-to-head in WTA's Grand Final, which takes place at The Oberoi, Gurgaon in December.