Two Regional tourism organisations have applauded Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Heads of Government for taking the lead in recognising the critical contribution of tourism to the economies of member countries and for their commitment to advancing a regional tourism agenda.
The Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO), the region’s tourism development agency, and the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA), the umbrella private sector organisation, signalled their appreciation in a press release issued on Tuesday 21 February.
At the recently-concluded Twenty-Eighth Meeting of the CARICOM Heads of Government, the CTO secretary general, Mr. Hugh Riley delivered a presentation that was prepared in collaboration with the CHTA. The Heads of Government supported the advancement of a series of steps addressing transportation and the facilitation of travel, human resource development, building the creative industries, and the marketing of the Caribbean brand. They also invited CTO and CHTA to present additional information to address the Region’s competitiveness and financing for the sustainability of tourism.
They called for an urgent meeting of the Council for Trade and Development (COTED)-Transportation to address air transport issues in particular, including those related to the tourism sector; and supported the establishment of an interim tourism working group to coordinate with regional public and private sector stakeholder groups, the development of specific solutions which can be advanced in priority areas.
The group will comprise representation from the CARICOM Secretariat, the CTO and the CHTA and its mandate includes the preparation of a pilot region-wide public relations and marketing initiative for 2017/2018 for presentation to the Heads at their Thirty-Eighth regular meeting in July.
The CARICOM leaders also agreed that public-private sector partnerships, guiding the development and marketing of tourism for the Caribbean, needed to be more effective and requested that the marketing of tourism encompass, in particular, the eco-tourism product of mainland member states of Belize, Guyana and Suriname.
The press release said that the CHTA and the CTO firmly believe that tourism was a key driver of socio-economic progress, helping destinations and countries to quickly create jobs and businesses, generate tax revenues and support infrastructure improvements to the benefit of residents and visitor. It is a proven tool to lower unemployment, stimulate indigenous entrepreneurial activity, increase foreign exchange earnings, and grow tax revenues for our treasuries.
However, it is a fiercely competitive business, and we are facing the stark reality that we must find ways of maximising the collective strength of the Caribbean, if any and all of us are to truly succeed.
The support of the leaders is a progressive and positive move and a welcomed commitment towards furthering the development of our people, so that they can take full advantage of the employment, career and entrepreneurial opportunities available through the region’s largest industry.
The organisations expressed gratitude to the Heads of Government for placing tourism on their agenda.
“We are particularly appreciative to Prime Minister Perry Christie of The Bahamas, who has responsibility for tourism in the CARICOM quasi-Cabinet, Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe and Minister of Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell for advancing the proposed initiative at the meeting,” the release said.