Better Airlift Needed For Caribbean, Asserts Tourism Chief

PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas – Despite the region spending millions of dollars to secure airline flights to the Caribbean, ticket prices are still too high and remain insufficient to sustain the industry, according to a tourism leader.

Josef Forstmayr, president of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA), addressing the opening of Caribbean Marketplace at the glittering Atlantis Resort, asserted: “There are no ‘drive-ins’ in the Caribbean – most of our guests arrive by air.”

He estimated in 2010 the Caribbean governments “collectively paid US$45 million to secure airlift – only to find that our airlift is still inadequate and way too expensive for our visitors.”

The CHTA president noted intra-Caribbean tourism “once represented 13% of the region’s tourism; as much as Canada. The combined population of Caribbean countries is 40 million. However, due to the lack of a competitive and truly regional airline, regional tourism has been suffocated by outrageous ticket prices and a cumbersome and ill-conceived network.”

The CHTA chief also criticized bureaucratic procedures in the region: “Caribbean nationals cannot travel freely between their countries without being subjected to visas, long immigration lines and other bureaucratic indulgences that stifle any sense of hospitality, the Caribbean’s trademark.”

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