Can Caribbean Tourism be
Caribbean This Week
theme of the annual conference of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) held
in the Bahamas
on October 25-30 was Reinventing Caribbean Tourism. But the sub-title could
easily have been "9/11: The Year After".
time last year predictions of the fall-off in visitor arrivals for the winter
season was as high as 20-30 percent. But there was a hope that world and
Caribbean tourism would quickly re-bound after the initial shock effects of the
attacks had worn off.
report by CTO Secretary General Jean Holder shows that winter 2002 arrivals were
actually 10.4 percent down from the previous year. But recovery has been slower
than in the past. Stock market falls, recession, and the prospect of a US-Iraqi
war have all deterred travelers. Then there was the Bali bombing.
mooted following 9/11 was that the
could be marketed in Europe as a "safe" alternative to a
vacation. But the fall-off in arrivals was much higher for Europeans (-15.8
percent) compared to Canadians (- 10.4 percent) and Americans (- 6.1 percent).
In times of insecurity, people don't wish to travel far from home.
prospects for the success of the CTO-sponsored advertising campaign-"Life Needs
the Caribbean" are therefore uncertain. For the medium term the CTO has prepared
a Regional Strategic Plan for Caribbean tourism, to be financed by a proposed
Sustainable Tourism Development Fund. How the Fund will be financed, especially
as between governments and the private sector, is to be the subject of further
critical issue is airline cooperation in the region. The Conference heard an
eloquent and impassioned plea for this from Bahamian Prime Minister Perry
Christie, who bemoaned the fact that a single regional airline had been
discussed at CARICOM Summits at least 10 years ago, but nothing had happened.
a study by the CTO and the Caribbean Association of Industry and Commerce (CAIC)
estimated potential savings of $65 million a year from inter-airline cooperation
in the Miami
hub. Together with the Association of Caribbean States, meetings of airline CEOs
airlines, including some based in
were lukewarm. Freshly privatized, each preferred to pursue its own business
agenda and its own alliances with foreign carriers.
acute financial difficulties now being experienced by regional carriers have
given government’s new leverage over regional air transport. The Government of
Trinidad and Tobago has conditioned its financial assistance to BWIA on its
studying the feasibility of joining with Air Jamaica in forming a single
regional airline. Air
is talking cooperation, but not an outright merger. LIAT has already forged an
alliance with BWIA. And Prime Minister Christie has committed Bahamas Air to
Caribbean airline or airline alliance could develop links with the Central
American and other regional carriers as part of the Sustainable Tourism Zone of
the Greater Caribbean. Approval of the ACS Agreement on a Common Air Transport
Policy is a necessary step to providing the legal framework for such alliances.
element in the reinvention of
Caribbean tourism is the reinvention of regional air transport. The
ball is in the court of the regional airlines, and in that of the governments to
which they are turning for financial support.
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November 24, 2002