A Caribbean Regional Tourism Brand crucial to offset decline from global financial crisis

GREATER GEORGETOWN, Guyana – The development of a Caribbean Regional Tourism Brand is critical to lessen the impacts of the global economic downturn on the Region’s tourism sector, said the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretary-General, His Excellency, Edwin Carrington.

He was speaking at his annual End-of-Year media briefing, last week, via video conference from the Headquarters of the CARICOM Secretariat, Georgetown, Guyana.

Like agriculture, the Secretary-General said, tourism was also a critical driver of the Region’s economy. In this regard, at the 29th Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM, the Heads of Government agreed to the establishment of a Task Force on Tourism Linkages. “It is important that we understand that tourism and agriculture have to be closely linked,” he noted.

The Secretary-General said that CARICOM Heads of Government also agreed to a Regional Marketing Plan, which was expected to promote the Caribbean Tourism Brand internationally.

He stated that the global economic downturn could have “serious negative impacts” on the Region’s tourism industry; therefore, “we need all the more urgently to prepare a brand that will offset the diminution of the tourism sector”.

Assistant Secretary-General, Trade and Economic Integration, Ambassador Irwin Larocque, cautioned Member States about cutting back on spending, which would otherwise promote tourism at Regional and national levels. “Now is not the time to cut back on expenditure…We should not cut back and comprise the Region’s tourism product,” Ambassador Larocque emphasised.

Illustrating the importance of the Regional Marketing Plan, he said, “when persons consider a holiday in the Region, they think first of the Caribbean and then within the Caribbean context, to a particular destination and to a particular experience.”

Allaying fears that the promotion of a Regional Tourism Brand would stifle national brands, Ambassador Larocque said that Members States would derive greater benefits from the Regional promotion since the Caribbean Brand would reach markets some were not able to enter, individually. “The Caribbean Brand will enhance and augment the promotion that will be taking place for national tourism…It will redound to more tourists coming to the Region,” Ambassador Larocque posited.

Outlining the initiatives which the Community had agreed to promote Regional Tourism, he said that CARICOM Heads of Government had proposed to establish more pre-clearance facilities in the Caribbean for North American tourists.

At the CARICOM Heads of Government Meeting in Antigua and Barbuda in July 2008, it was also proposed that efforts be made to approach the Government of the United States of America to increase duty-free allowances for persons travelling from the Caribbean to destinations in the US.

At the Meeting in July 2008 also, the CARICOM Heads of Government supported a proposal to waive departure taxes for US citizens travelling to the Caribbean.

With regard to efficiency in transportation, which was critical to the sector, Ambassador Larocque called for greater urgency in the development of airline Hubs. “A lot of the airlifts are facilitated by external air carriers. We need to look at developing a Hubs Transportation System so that there can be an increased flow of cargo and passengers, and greater cooperation among the regional airlines,” he said. He alluded to collaboration that had begun between LIAT and Caribbean Airlines.

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