In a move to shore up their tourism markets, which are under threat from an emerging aviation crisis, Caribbean Community (CARICOM) heads of government have agreed to the adoption of a ‘One Caribbean’ branding strategy.
Stakeholders in the regional tourist industry in search of US$60 million to promote the region as a resort destination received the blessing of CARICOM heads of government. The heads, including Prime Minister Bruce Golding, held their annual summit in Antigua last week.
Stamp of approval
The Caribbean Tourism Develop-ment Company, an arm of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) and the Caribbean Hotel Association, left the CARICOM summit on Thursday with a stamp of approval to raise funds for the regional marketing campaign, according to CTO Chairman Allen Chastanet.
He said the Council on Trade and Economic Development Trade was charged with leading the mandate.
“The governments and hotels will provide US$21 million, while the rest of the wider Caribbean and the cruise sector are being targeted to supplement the shortfall,” Chastanet told The Sunday Gleaner.
Lobbying for reassessment
The region’s tourism ministers are also lobbying the United States (US) Congress for a reassessment of the damaging Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), duty-free allowances and pre-clearance agreements.
The renewed marketing thrust comes at a time when the region is reeling from a downturn in stopover arrivals, amounting to 10 per cent in some cases, as a result of the WHTI; airlines slashing their presence here and opting for revenue guaranteeing; and, countries in the Indian Ocean as well as Dubai taking a large chunk out of our tourism pie.
According to Senator Chastanet, who is minister of tourism and aviation for St Lucia, the challenges are heightened by the fact that the Caribbean has not been diversified as a core market.
“Too much of the business keeps coming from the same market, which is being diluted because of the growth of the industry.”
The new strategy, he said, was to target the emerging markets of Brazil, Russia, India and China, which, “despite the downturn in the United States, they are doing exceptionally well”.
In addition to the approval to hunt the US 60 million marketing dollars, the heads gave permission for the tourism ministers to employ expertise to lobby the US Congress on three matters.
They include the removal of the US$40 departure tax that US visitors now pay to enter the region; duty-free allowances of US$1,600 for visitors entering the United States Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico; and, the ability to increase pre-clearance agreements from more Caribbean countries into the US.
Visitors departing The Bahamas and the US territories in the Caribbean for the US mainland now enjoy a pre-clearance facility.
Pre-clearance agreements are even more important now since the US signed the open-skies air agreement with Europe, resulting in immense congestion in international airports.