Following up on the successful Caribbean tourism policy workshop hosted last November by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), a delegation of the Caribbean Hotel Association
(CHA) has met with Member of Parliament, the Rt. Hon George Foulkes, and John Marshall Esq., Head of the Caribbean Unit of the FCO, in London, to explore in more detail the areas where the British Government may collaborate with the Caribbean tourism industry. The regional tourism private sector delegation included CHA President Simón B. Suárez, President-Elect Berthia Parle, and Director General and CEO Alec Sanguinetti.
“The FCO policy workshop set the stage for collaboration by opening the lines of communication and conveying the message of the importance of the tourism industry to the financial and social well-being of Caribbean countries,” said CHA President Simón B. Suárez. “At that time, we committed to follow up with specific actions,” he said, adding that the follow up meeting served to narrow the scope of the original proposals to focus on those with the most potential, as they relate to European policy towards the Caribbean.
The meeting in London was followed by a corresponding reunion in Brussels with the Rt. Hon. Richard Howitt, Member of the European Parliament, to widen the efforts to raise awareness and secure the financial support of the European Union for the Caribbean tourism industry. The visit concluded with a briefing by the CHA delegation to the Caribbean Ambassadors in Brussels and to the President of the Caribbean Development Bank, Dr. Compton Bourne. H.E. George R. E. Bullen, Ambassador of the Eastern Caribbean States in Belgium, hosted this very productive meeting.
CHA will now expedite an evaluation of the development and research areas for which they seek support from a poverty reduction/sustainable development perspective.
Among them, the development of a Tourism Investment Fund has already been identified as a priority. “Given the major challenges facing Caribbean hoteliers in attracting affordable finance, we feel that the first proposal is the most urgent and potentially significant,” said Simón Suárez. Suárez added that the Fund is the first step to get adequate capital mobilized within the Caribbean for financing, with a view to making projects attractive to international financial institutions. He stressed that the investment fund would target indigenous, small hotels, which are under a heavy debt burden.
Another area that has shown preliminary promise is the establishment of a “Friends of Tourism” group at the World Trade Organization (WTO), for coordinating positions in the GATS services negotiations on tourism, given the proposal’s direct link to poverty alleviation in the Caribbean.