Suarez wants to keep tourism top of political agenda

Simon B Suarez, the President of the Caribbean Hotel Association welcomed the “very healthy maturation process” of the relationship and media Caribbean tourism, “thanks to CMEx,” as he opened the Fifth Caribbean Media Exchange at the Almond Beach Resort in Barbados, jointly sponsored by CHA and Counterpart International. Describing tourism as “in most cases…the only means to achieving the necessary economic growth for our continued existence and future prosperity,” he asked participants to help ensure that “as with sugar and bananas in the past, tourism is at the top of every political agenda in the future.“He projected that on current growth rates, over the next decade the region’s tourism industry will grow from $34 billion to $78.4 billion, and employment in the sector will grow from 1.8 million to 2.9 million, but he sounded a warning. CARICOM destinations are pricing themselves out of the market, and he said, “we do…on occasions, wonder why it is that so little attention is paid to the many opportunities that vibrant and successful tourism industry could bring.“In order to ensure the competitiveness of land based tourism, he welcomed proposals for a $20 head tax on arriving cruise passengers. And to promote investment, governments should look at the tax structure for tourism, which they should look at as an export industry. He also proposed a Tourism Investment Fund to harness local capital and make it available for the industry while calling on the smaller local based businesses to join with the CHA in collectively promoting themselves in the face of the challenge from vertically integrated international tourist operations.