MIAMI – Frank Comito has stepped down as CEO and Director General of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) after guiding the association through the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, several devastating hurricanes and numerous global challenges impacting the region’s top industry.
Comito’s transition comes at the conclusion of nearly 40 years of service to local and regional private sector organizations in the Caribbean.
In a message to members, Comito, who will serve as a part-time Special Advisor to the organization, said he was proud of how quickly and effectively CHTA adapted over the past 10 months, working in collaboration with public and private sector stakeholders to address the COVID-19 pandemic and the many challenges critical to recovery efforts which, he assured, would hasten the Caribbean tourism sector’s recovery.
He added that COVID-19 remained a critical concern, and declared the industry needs CHTA, its regional public sector ally, the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), and local private and public sector tourism associations and entities working together towards the industry’s recovery now more than ever. “Our work has a bottom line impact on restoring tourism and economies,” he stated.
Looking to the future of Caribbean tourism and CHTA, he voiced optimism that despite the headwinds facing the tourism sector and the association, industry leadership working with local and regional tourism associations will address immediate needs, mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, and help to steer a course to the future.
He recalled how 18 months ago a new direction had been charted by CHTA’s leadership and the association was well on the way towards implementation when COVID-19 struck. “While we immediately shifted course, adapting to the newfound needs of the industry, we have not lost sight of the long-game of CHTA’s ongoing viability and our role in continuing to support tourism’s development,” he commented.
Comito was hired by CHTA six years ago when he made a five-year commitment to help refocus the organization and address several longstanding challenges the organization was facing. Having successfully tackled most of the issues, as well as others which were not anticipated, he is moving on to pursue other personal and professional goals while also continuing to support CHTA.
During his term, Comito improved communication with members and raised CHTA’s and Caribbean tourism’s public profile by embracing consumer, trade and social media as well as digital communications platforms.
As part of his transition away from serving at the helm of CHTA, the award-winning tourism executive voiced his pleasure that CHTA’s leadership had endorsed Vanessa Ledesma’s assuming the post of Acting Chief Executive Officer and Director General, effective January 1, 2021.
He lauded Ledesma, who formerly served as Chief Operations Officer, for her skills, experience, integrity, deep passion for CHTA and the industry, and her extensive professional relationships built with confidence over two decades while working with CHTA.
Stressing the sustained viability of CHTA would not happen on its own and would take the continued commitment of the industry, he implored members not to shy away from providing the volunteer and financial support to CHTA that is essential to accelerating the industry’s recovery and their own success. “CHTA is your organization and its successes are directly tied to the lifeblood of its members which sustain and nourish it,” he affirmed.
Comito thanked his good fortune at being surrounded by a great team of volunteer leaders, a dedicated and supportive staff, and individuals committed to the development of tourism in the region.
He also highlighted the importance of working together, and saluted CHTA Presidents under whom he served – Emil Lee from St. Maarten; St. Lucia’s Karolin Troubetzkoy; Patricia Affonso-Dass of Barbados; and most recently, Pablo Torres of Venezuela/Puerto Rico, drawn from “a long list of dedicated local and regional leaders from many walks of life who have guided and supported me during the 40 years which I’ve been fortunate to be part of the Caribbean.”
While the challenges the pandemic has presented will continue, Comito stated 2021 will be a turning point for the industry.
He assured members the association was in good hands, “with a great volunteer leadership team, Acting CEO and Director General and small support staff supported by his part-time consultancy role, and the team at Marketplace Excellence (MPE), our communications consultants.”