Reviving Caribbean Tourism

“There can be no reinvention of Caribbean Tourism without our daily intent
to co-operate. We have a wealth of knowledge of tourism in our region; we
need to share that knowledge to our maximum benefit.”
- Prime Minister of The Bahamas, Perry G Christie - October 28

Grand Bahama - Once again a Caribbean Prime Minister/leader is calling for
greater levels of co-operation amongst countries of the region to achieve
the full economic potential of member States, and this in “the interest of
the people”.

Christie, who is also chairman of the Caricom prime ministerial committee
on tourism, pointed out to the 25th annual conference of the Caribbean
Tourism Organisation being held here, that co-operation in a generic
advertising campaign of the Caribbean in the markets of North America and
Europe would save individual States millions of dollars.

He ventured too that if the region were able to find a way to lock the CEOs
of regional airlines in a room and not open the door until they find a
method to co-operate to reduce the tens of millions of dollars being lost
by the “hodgepodge” of national airlines, including Bahamasair, Air
Jamaica, BWIA and Cayman Airways, “just maybe Caribbean tourism can be

The background is the ten per cent plunge in visitor arrivals to the
Caribbean since the bombing of the World Trade Center and the disappearance
of charters from the Caribbean such as JMC Condor and the reduction in
flights from British Airways. On the latter development, Rudder says it
best: “In a world that don`t need islands no more”.


For those of us in Trinidad (not Tobago) who consider tourism an activity
of servility and/or a fun activity not to be taken seriously by an oil, gas
and manufacturing economy - perhaps that explains why this country was only
represented at this most significant conference by low-level officers of
Tidco - here`s the reality of the industry.

Direct jobs for one million people, indirectly, many more millions and
US$16 billion in annual income, making it the largest single industry in
the world.

And just in case we need validation from the developed world that an
activity is worth our engagement, tourism just happens to be the largest
sector of the economies of the United Kingdom, Spain and France.

In the United States tourism is in the first three and the Americans have
been doing everything to revive the trade since September 2001.But just in case we did not get the importance of co-operation to revive
the tourism trade, or that politicians simply do not have the credibility
to talk about co-operative efforts within the Caribbean, the secretary
general of the CTO notes that in the context of economies and societies in
the Eastern Caribbean - and we can add Jamaica and Guyana - being under
siege, Jean Holder says “partnerships are now strategic rather than
altruistic”. What`s more, he is of the view that “for the vast majority of our States,
dependence on tourism for socio-economic development will become
considerably greater than the present”. However, and absolutely in character with Caribbean efforts at integration,
no sooner the words had left the mouths of Christie and Holder, another
leader turns the logic of integration around.

Dwyer Astaphan, claiming to be the “senior Tourism Minister in the
English-speaking Caribbean, says the promotion of a “generic Caribbean
brand does nothing to enhance the images of emerging small island
destinations”. Astaphan says the OECS territories are not getting “bang for our precious
bucks” in the CTO, the organisation being preoccupied with the Cancuns,
Jamaica, Bahamas, Puerto Rico, DR and Barbados. So, Astaphan is calling for the rest of the OECS and dependent territories
to come to a meeting in St Kitts in January 2003 to, among other things,
develop a tourism plan and to establish a secretariat, presumably to take
over the role of the CTO, to implement the plan.

“I am convinced, personally and professionally, that the only thing that
would give us a major leap forward is to use the Caribbean brand; it`s a
powerful brand that we underestimate its value in terms of marketing.”
Guess who said that while handing out the release from the St Kitts Tourism
Minister? Cliff Hamilton, who is now adviser to the Kittian Government on tourism and
who is to become in January of 2003, Director of Tourism in St Kitts. But the contradictions and confusion does not end there. Robert Kelly,
director of the St Kitts tourism office in New York, informed that he fully
utilises the 29 American chapters of the CTO to promote travel to his

The St Kitts Tourism Minister cannot be so absolutely destructively
devilish to want to destroy yet another attempt to bring the scarce
resources of the region together to achieve greater results at a time when
Dominica and others are on the brink of economic and social collapse. Nor
can the Bahamian Prime Minister be so off course to see the possibilities
of working together. So it must be something else in our history and psyche
that retards our collective advance. I wish I knew!

In the meantime, the tourist-based economies remain in peril and so too the
manufacturing sectors of countries such as Trinidad, depending as they do
on Barbados` dependency to earn from tourism to pay for the goods.

Similarly positioned are the airlines who are to find it even more
difficult to stay in the sky on the basis of business as usual.