According to the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association, CHTA, one of the key pillars in need of urgent action by the regional leaders, is the implementation of the San Juan Accord, which was agreed to in Puerto Rico, since October, 2007. The Accord established a protocol for the re-structuring of the regional air transport sector, in order to offer the best prospects for safe, secure and sustainable air services in the Caribbean, consistent with Government’s long term economic development.
President of the CHTA, Mr. Josef Forstmayr told media representatives while in St. Kitts last week for the CARICOM Summit, that the San Juan Accord addresses the need for all Caribbean states, no matter how big or small, to cooperate on airlift, because no one can walk or drive to our islands. Visitors, said the president, cannot get to the islands without airlift.
“We can talk all day long about better product, better hotels, more anything…if you cannot get there it is not going to happen. The only way you can get to our islands, efficiently, fast and at an affordable price, is (via) airlift. You can come on a cruise ship if you really want to, but it is not what most people would opt to do. So therefore, we must recognize that we need to work together, we need to do something, to enforce the existing agreement that is already there, under the civil aviation of CARICOM,” said the CHTA president.
Mr. Forstmayr said the agreement needs to be enforced equally, without fear or favour and we cannot protect certain operators over others. It is important that we grow the industry, and as we all know, protection is not workable, he continued.
He said the moment you operate an industry under protectionist policies, it is going to reduce competition; it is going to make it unattractive for outsiders to try to provide a service. Once you remove protectionist systems, and you open up, you then establish clear policies that everybody understands and you enforce them across the board. You do not play favourites and before you know it, you are going to have a vibrant industry.
“The sad thing about the San Juan Accord is that, though it makes so much sense and has clear deadlines in there, not a single thing has been acted on. Not a single one, ‘said Mr. Forstmayr.
The CARICOM Tourism Minister in 2009, along with civil aviation and tourism officials, select regional airline executives and representatives of relevant regional and international institutions, focused particularly on measures aimed at improving the management of international and intra-regional air services, in order to maintain and improve the vibrancy and competitiveness of the vital tourism sector, while promoting greater business, social and institutional integration in the region.