What would a common travel visa do for tourism in the Caribbean? Johnson Johnrose of the Caribbean Tourism Organization spoke with Jamaica’s Tourism Minister, Ed Bartlett on this topic.
ED BARTLETT: We need to look at visas, and I make that point very strong, because it is emerging as one of the most difficult aspects of our marketing approaches to overcome, that of seamless movement within our area. And it is perhaps one of the biggest deterrents to Caribbean growth now that we are not able to sell and market ourselves as a single destination, so somebody comes to Jamaica, he can immediately move onto Barbados, to Saint Lucia, to Trinidad, and don’t worry about the visa.
JOHNSON JOHNROSE: Do you have hope of that happening?
BARTLETT: I do have hope because there is good discussion now going on about intra-Caribbean movement, the issues of a single Caribbean passport, for example. My diplomatic passport is a Curacao passport, and that I think is a brand-new…
JOHNROSE: It says Curacao, but it doesn’t mean Curacao, does it?
BARTLETT: That’s a good start anyway, a symbolic move, and I believe that we have to get the ministers of foreign affairs and ministers of security and then the leaders, the heads of government within the region, to recognize this. One of the things, too, that we have to do is to get them to understand how important tourism is to the economy of the region, a d that central to tourism’s growth is accessibility, and visas within, the instrument of accessibility in the region.
JOHNROSE: So in other words, and we’ve been talking about attracting visitors from new markets – you’ve talked about China, and you’ve talked about Brazil, and so on. In other words, you are saying here, let us have a single visa?
BARTLETT: Let us have a single visa for the Caribbean for the purpose of tourism. The technology exists – you can have e-visas. The technology provides a data base that is common to the world now. We know who is coming, we know long before they get to your destination who the people are. You can develop profiles on the visitor, you can determine who you are going to investigate, who you are not going to investigate, indeed you can prevent them from coming, you can stop them at the point of boarding the aircraft – the airlines can do that job for you. So I think that we are losing the excuse for not having single entry arrangements in the Caribbean.