The Caribbean Tourism Organization will lead a mission next year to meet with top ministerial officials and technical personnel in its member countries to seek their assistance in the advancement of better intra-regional air links to help boost tourism throughout the region.
This was one of several recommendations coming out of the inaugural meeting of the organisation’s aviation task force, which took place recently at the regional tourism development agency’s headquarters in Barbados.
The recently appointed chairman, the US Virgin Islands Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty, reported a successful inaugural meeting which discussed the cost of intra-regional travel, the economic impact of the declines in travel, improving the ease of passenger movement, and launching actions to improve the efficiency of Caribbean aviation. The meeting was jointly chaired by Ms Nicholson-Doty and past chairman Ricky Skerritt, minister of tourism and international transport of St. Kitts and Nevis.
“We had an excellent first meeting and we are confident that the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s leadership in this area will be critical to reviving growth in intra-regional travel, which has declined seriously in recent years,” Ms Nicholson-Doty said.
The group’s aviation committee discussed the San Juan Accord – a memorandum on the regional air transport sector that was agreed by members in 2007 – as well as other important issues such as minimum revenue guarantees, communication among regional carriers, open skies agreements, government taxes and fees, fuel costs, visa restrictions, passenger security-screening arrangements, airlift capacity and the dependency of local hotels on the intra-regional market.
Another key item addressed was American Eagle’s possible departure from the San Juan hub in 2013 and both the opportunities and challenges this presents, especially for destinations in the Eastern Caribbean which depend on this commuter service.
Among other recommendations, the committee proposed a meeting between airline and airport operators within the first few weeks of 2013 and a region-wide meeting of transportation ministers and commissioners during the first quarter of 2013.
The composition of the committee reflects technical, regulatory and policy-making experience and has public/private sector representation from tourism professionals, accommodations, airlines, airports and aviation consultants.