In an address entitled, “There’s Never Been a More Crucial Time in Caribbean Tourism,” Chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO), Richard Skerritt says it was imperative (that) stakeholders set aside the differences that divide them.
“We don’t have to agree on everything in order to improve our own product standards. We don’t have to be political supporters of the government to understand that successful destination tourism is achieved only by uniters, not by dividers.”
The CTO chairman, who is also Minister of Tourism in St. Kitts and Nevis, reiterated that cooperation was needed between states and with major stakeholders: “No matter who is in government, tourism success is crucial to our country’s future and must therefore be important to all of us. And we don’t have to be rocket scientists to learn that the public and private sectors need to be partners if we are to advance and sustain our market recovery.”
Invoking the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child,” Skerritt, said the Caribbean must work together both as a destination and as a region to compete in a very complex and demanding tourism marketplace.
“Ours is a marketplace that is overburdened by the stresses of life – continued unemployment, high fuel prices, increasing food prices, worrying political conflict, and unprecedented natural disasters. But it is also a marketplace we think is ready to accept that Life Needs the Caribbean.”
Pointing to the myriad issues affecting tourism – from “taxation gone crazy” to intra-regional travel, advocacy, effective marketing, service excellence and the link between visitor expenditure and wealth creation – the CTO chairman said tourism has become an even more competitive business since the recent US recession and consequent worldwide economic downturn.
Chairman Skerritt contended future tourism success will need a more organized, proactive and creative private sector in order to drive new employment, investment and growth, while satisfying demanding visitors. “It will also need Government officials who give more than lip service to the concept of partnership.”
To help deal with the marketplace challenges facing the region’s tourism industry, the CTO and its private sector partner Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) have injected new life into the Caribbean Tourism Development Company (CTDC) to market the Caribbean brand to global audiences, starting with the online marketing platform, Caribbeantravel.com.
Virgin Islands hotelier and CHTA president-elect, Richard Doumeng, said that the renewed partnership is due, in no small way, to the skilled leadership of Minister Skerritt and CHTA President Josef Forstmayr, the co-chairs of CTDC.
“For so long – both nationally and regionally – governments and businesses have lived in some sort of parallel universes, (but now) we have forged our way to a bright future of cooperation and results.”
Skerritt was invited to St. Thomas, USVI, to address a special meeting of stakeholders from the private and public sector of that territory, as they seek to develop new development strategies for the industry.