Buoyant Caribbean Marketplace 2011 heralds tourism rebound

Buoyant Caribbean Marketplace 2011 heralds tourism rebound

Attendance at Caribbean Marketplace 2011 in Jamaica rose 22 percent year-on-year as renewed confidence in the region’s travel and tourism economy led to a surge in interest from buyers.

The number of delegates increased from 1,362 to 1,518, the third largest attendance over the past decade, whilst the number of scheduled appointments totalled 11,880 over the two-day event as compared to 11,774 in 2010.

Attendees felt that the 22 percent increase in the wholesaler buyer companies was an indication that interest in vacations to the Caribbean was returning and Marketplace 2011

The mood at the two-day event, which was held at the brand new Montego Bay Convention Centre, was buoyant and is expected to result in an increase in packages, promotions and bookings to the region.

CHTA President Josef Forstmayr said: “All of us have felt the impact of the economic crisis over the past two years, but we have much reason to be optimistic. Right now at Marketplace 2011, we have more buyers that have come to meet with hotels and tourist offices than last year, an indication that business is coming back.”

He also urged all delegates to “recognize that tourism is the key to economic development in the Caribbean. Tourism and its ability to compete globally has in all but a few Caribbean nations become the essential provider of employment and national income; and by extension a principal provider of taxes that pay for voters’ expectations of everything from education to health care to roads.

“This is why CHTA launched the ‘Tourism Is Key’ advocacy campaign underlining the importance of travel and tourism to our Caribbean economies. 

“The campaign targets a broad audience from Caribbean heads of state across the region to Caribbean citizens in every destination.

“We all need to understand that whether or not anyone works directly in the tourism areas, every tourist dollar brings economic and social benefits to every level of our society.

“I urge all of you here today to assist us in our lobbying efforts and to help us to achieve four main goals: 1. Strong advocacy of the tourism industry with government and the general public. 2. Faster regional integration and the removal of barriers such as visas, excessive entry formalities and bureaucracy. 3. Better and more affordable airline access with less regulation throughout the region. 4. The creation and launch of a sustainable marketing and promotion fund for the Caribbean.”

Forstmayr was followed by an impassioned speech from Prime Minister of Jamaica Bruce Golding, who urged the Caribbean region “to continue its united action to fight the decision of the United Kingdom to impose the Air Passenger Duty (APD) tax.” 

He said: “The region was united in its position that this tax is manifestly unjust to the countries of the Caribbean region.”

Varying APD rates are dictated by the classification of worldwide destinations by the UK government, with passengers taking trips to the Caribbean being particularly badly hit.

Mr. Golding said: “several leaders from the region have impressed upon the British government that the tax is not fair and that it needs to be reviewed.”

Mr. Golding said that in handing over the chairmanship of CARICOM to Grenada’s Prime Minister Tillman Thomas, he provided a full brief on all the activities including a detailed update on the efforts that have been made to adjust this increase and he is confident that CARICOM will continue to make representation to the British government.

“Going to London and pleading are not the only options we have,” Mr. Golding noted.  He said he had “consulted widely and there are other options that the Caribbean may have to consider in tackling something that is not just unfair and unjust but is in conflict with established global rules of tourism.”

He noted that while he could not speak for other Caribbean countries on the matter and while it would be premature to speak on the position that the Government of Jamaica will take, “there is no option that is off the table.  We are going to secure justice in this matter one way or the other.”

Next year, Caribbean Marketplace 2012 will take place 22-24 January 2012 at the Atlantis, Paradise Island in The Bahamas