Industry Leaders Salute Outgoing Caribbean Tourism Chief

WASHINGTON, DC – The appointment of a new tourism minister in the Bahamas is being hailed as a significant move for the wider Caribbean region.

The highly-regarded head of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, joins the Bahamian Senate next week as Minister of Tourism and Aviation.

“The elevation of Vanderpool-Wallace signals a determination to get the best and the brightest into the region’s most important industry,” said Lelei LeLaulu, a tourism and development specialist in Washington DC. “The region is going into one of the most critical phases of its development and the elevation of Vanderpool-Wallace signals a willingness of the political leadership to start mobilizing political will to deal with the crisis looming over the region,” he added,

“The appointment of one brilliant man will not save the region, but when he’s placed next to other dynamic leaders like Allen Chastanet of St. Lucia, Edmund Bartlett of Jamaica and Harold Lovell of Antigua and Barbuda, then you have a spearhead of ministers who can really make a difference,” he added.

“It’s time to get the region off its laurels before it’s too late – and action has to come from the top,” said LeLaulu, president of Counterpart International and co-founder of the World Tourism Forum for Peace and Sustainable Development.

“The Caribbean tourism industry is better equipped to deal with the challenges of reduced seat capacity, escalating air fares and high fuel prices following Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace’s three years of service as CTO Secretary General,” said LeLaulu, a member of the Global Sustainable Tourism Alliance set up by the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

“Not only do the leaders have to adopt urgent policies to deal with the oil price crisis, which is more devastating than some hurricanes, but they also have to communicate these policies effectively to all stakeholders and fortunately for the region Vanderpool-Wallace is a master communicator,” added LeLaulu, whose organization produces the Caribbean Media Exchange on Sustainable Tourism (CMEx) which gathers cabinet ministers with the media and other movers and shakers twice a year.

Lauding the tourism leader for bringing energy, insight and a stimulating intellect to the Barbados-based regional organisation, Senator Allen Chastanet, CTO’s chairman as well as St. Lucia’s Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation, lamented Vanderpool-Wallace’s departure, but was thankful that he will continue to make a contribution to the region as Bahamas’ Minister of Tourism and Aviation. “Vincent was a key architect in the restructuring and streamlining of the CTO and the launch of the Caribbean Tourism Development Company which now brands the region with a single voice,” he said.

CTO now requires Ministers of Tourism to meet separately and apart from directors, thereby distinguishing the crafting of regional policy from its implementation. Once policies have been set, directors can then use their creative imagination and skills to develop plans and programmes that help to aggressively position the Caribbean’s brand, without too much interference from politicians.

“We congratulate Vincent on his term at the CTO and wish him every success as he returns to his native Bahamas to continue the fine work that he started when he was Director-General of Tourism,” said Cybelle Brown, Vice President of Sales and Business Development with BET Digital Networks which partners with numerous Caribbean destinations to position the region to its growing audience of Caribbean vacationers. “We are thankful that he will remain in the region to provide a renewed level of inspiration to tourism players in both the public and private sector,” she said.

Caroline Racine, Director of Caribbean Franchise Development with Choice Hotels International, said the former Secretary General was able to put the issues of small hotels and their importance to economic development firmly on the region’s agenda, and she looked forward to working with CTO’s new leadership to follow through some exciting plans for the small hotel community that have been promoted under Vanderpool-Wallace’s watch. “Vincent is a treasure to the Caribbean and we are sure as he heads back home, he will continue to provide leadership on regional issues from Nassau,” she commented.

Vanderpool-Wallace, who took over as CTO’s Secretary General from the long-serving Barbadian Dr. Jean Holder, steps down on Monday to assume his new position in the Bahamian Senate following a cabinet reshuffle. Current tourism minister Neko Grant, who has held the portfolio of Minister of Tourism and Aviation for a little over a year, assumes the portfolio responsibility for the Ministry of Public Works and Transport.

Vanderpool-Wallace had served as Director General of Tourism in the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism for 12 years and has had a long and distinguished career in tourism in both the public and private sector of The Bahamas and in the region. He previously served as Chairman of the Management Committee of the Bahamas Tourism Training Center, Director of both the Central Bank of The Bahamas and the Bank of The Bahamas, and Chairman of the Hotel Corporation of The Bahamas.

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