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Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OCES) looks at levy to fund regional tourism marketing campaign

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – Countries of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OCES) are looking at a proposal in principle to implement a US$3 levy on airline tickets for persons travelling to the OECS and the wider Caribbean originating in overseas markets.

At a meeting Joint Meeting of the OECS Authority and the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) Monetary Council, in Basseterre, the St. Kitts capital on Thursday and Friday, Member States agreed in principle, subject to the determination of the specific functions and cost of operations, to the possibility of setting up an OECS Tourism Authority with the capacity for planning, coordinating, regulating, marketing and research and development, which will initially function as a secretariat to the Executive Committee of Ministers.

“The proposed Tourism Authority will initially play a coordinating role, working in tandem with OECS Ministries of Tourism, and drawing on the resources of the ECCB and the OECS Secretariat. Member States agreed to collaborate more closely in the marketing of the region,” said the statement.

“They agreed in principle, subject to agreement by the wider Caribbean, to the implementation of a US$3 levy on airline tickets for persons travelling to the OECS and the wider Caribbean originating in overseas markets; the proceeds of which will be used to establish a sustainable funding mechanism to ensure adequate public funding of regional market campaigns,” said the communiqué.

The meeting recognised that tourism is the most important economic activity in Member States, and that the sector’s performance in 2008 reflected a significant downturn, resulting in job losses and cutbacks in hotel development projects. Projections for 2009 are that the downward trends will continue and may worsen, particularly in light of the continued recession in the major tourism source markets.

It was agreed that Member States would provide a short term tax relief package to the hotel industry tailored to the individual circumstances of individual Member States, on condition that the industry takes proactive innovative measures to preserve employment levels, increase operating efficiency and reduce operating costs.

“Member governments will strengthen markedly, their partnership with the industry in supporting marketing, product enhancement and other facilitating measures that position the industry to respond readily when the tourism source markets recover,” said the communiqué.

It said that in the medium to long term, OECS Member States have agreed in principle to the establishment of an Executive Committee of Ministers of Tourism to oversee and give direction to the long-term OECS tourism development agenda.

In furthering the linkages between tourism and the rest of the economy, Member States agreed to urgently schedule a video-conference between the Ministries of Finance, Ministries of Agriculture, Ministries of Tourism, the OECS and the ECCB.

The Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) said Friday it is taking all necessary steps to maintain and preserve the stability of the EC dollar and the financial system and is keeping in very close touch with developments in the regional and international financial community.

It said also that contingency plans have been drawn up to address any possible issue that may arise and the ECCB is in constant contact with the banking sector within the Currency Union.

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