St. Maarten Ministers and Commissioners make inter-regional travel top advocacy point

POSTED: 09/19/11 1:41 PM

“The risk is less than the net economic benefits”

St. Maarten – Regional Tourism Ministers and Commissioners have decided to push advocacy on inter-regional travel to the top of their agenda for the coming 12 months. Their efforts will be based on creating awareness with national governments that the benefits outweigh the risks, to spread the wealth that is created by people from outside the region coming on visits and for Caribbean people to “value what they have and who they are.”

“We need to get our own people to value what we have and who we are. We also need to spread the wealth by getting the beneficiaries of tourism to spend that money in the Caribbean as much as possible. One key aspect of business is that you must have a home market to sell to. It’s proven that if you want to test a new product the place to do that is at home, and so we believe that Caribbean people must be able to see and learn their own region,” Chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organization Council of Ministers and Commissioners Richard Skerrit said.

Skerrit is the Minister of Tourism in St. Kitts.

The advocacy over the next year will examine all aspects of inter-regional travel with specific focus on the cost of travel, the cost of hotels, the cost of airlines, packaging, taxes, border issues, visa/security issues, consumer needs, route planning and timing and customer service.

Asked specifically about visa/security issues Skerrit said, “Every country has particular reasons for implementing certain measures. We will undertake to bring awareness of the benefits and that the risk is less than the net economic benefits. But yes we will acknowledge that each government has responsibility to its own people.”

Skerrit was clear that the while promoting inter-regional travel is being pushed to the top of the agenda, there is consensus that the region’s primary business is bringing the rest of the world to the region. He also confessed that the decision to do greater advocacy is just a first step that will be worked out more as things move forward and did not rule out the formation of a technical committee to carry to provide technical oversight.

“We will also need to educate our people and the employees in the regional tourism business that we are also tourists and that Caribbean people should not be treated as second class citizens when they travel,” Skerrit said.

Caribbean Tourism Development Company

The decision to move inter-regional travel to the top of the advocacy agenda is one of several decisions taken by the Council of Ministers and Commissioners at the State of the Industry Conference that was held this past weekend. The ministers and commissioners have also instructed the Secretary General of the Caribbean Tourism Organization and the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association to have the Caribbean Tourism Development Company up and running by June 30, 2012. The Caribbean Tourism Development Company is the agreed upon agency for marketing the Caribbean brand.

“We have no money for marketing right now, but we have given a mandate for this to be done. We intend to take this step by step. We have good people and they have to make it happen,” Skerrit said.

Website

The Council of Ministers and Commissioners has also mandated the Caribbean Tourism Organization to finalize a contract with Tamborine Creative by the end of September that will lead to a revamp of www.caribbeantravel .com. This order was given following a presentation by the principal of Tamborine Creative.

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