Caribbean tourism leaders lay out strategy

There’s been enough talk but it’s
time for collective action, according to the new leader of the Caribbean
Tourism Organisation.

“It’s important to align regional
strategy with the realities of the marketplace.

“The time is right; the recession
has taught that we can do more if we do it together,” said Richard Skerritt,
new chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation.

He said that the priorities for the
organisation under his leadership were opposing taxes, delivering world-class
service and developing marketing.

Mr. Skerritt told journalists at
the closing of the leadership strategy conference in Barbados that countries of
the Caribbean had to present a strong coalition to oppose increased taxes like
the Air Passenger Duty. The organisation intends to take the issue to the World
Travel Market in London during November and hopes to have a report to hand that
has been commissioned to look into the actual impact of the tax.

Also, it was vital to continue to
educate governments and colleagues across the region that tourism was a tool
for economic development.

He spoke of the service imperative
and the duty to deliver service at a world-class level. The Caribbean Tourism
Organisation had put forward a specific programme to try and ensure that the
Caribbean led the world in visitor satisfaction, he said, and this will be
launched across the membership of the organisation, which comprises 32 member
countries as well as allied private sector members providing products and
services to the Caribbean tourism industry.


Cut the talk

The chairman said that it was now
time to cut the talk and get some action leading toward concrete decisions,
such as a long-planned marketing initiative shared equally between the
organisation and the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association. The Caribbean
Tourism Organisation needed to get to grips with how to move forward with the
initiative, which had been developed but never funded.

Things to take away from the
conference included the facts that whilst the economy was recovering, the
impact was still serious. Intra-regional travel had dropped by 25 per cent so
it was essential to increase capacity; collaboration between and with airlines was

The organisation had not
specifically discussed cost of air travel as an agenda item, revealed the
chairman, but seminars had brought it to the fore over the conference. In terms
of over-regulation and taxes, he said that sometimes there was a disconnect
between tourism, aviation and ministers of finance.

Enhancing the experience for cruise
passengers was important as they had been a stable market through the recession
and green issues plus sustainability continued to be important. There will be a
conference in Bermuda next April to expand on environmental tourism.

Mr. Skerritt added the inaugural
leadership strategy conference, held at the Hilton Barbados, had been very
successful and that in principle it had been decided that it would become an
annual event.