The Caribbean Hotel Association (CHA) has reiterated its full support to enhanced cooperation with its counterpart in the public sector, the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) - and looks forward to both organisations finding a common platform from which to work toward shared goals. However, according to CHA officials, a merger of both organisations is unlikely and impractical. “CHA and CTO must co-exist parallel but separate, in order to serve their very distinct constituencies,” explained CHA director general and CEO Alec Sanguinetti.
Sanguinetti noted that CHA brings together the members of the Caribbean hospitality industry to address a broad range of issues that are common specifically to their development interests. Over the course of 40 years, the organisation has evolved from a straight trade association to one that is now actively involved in ensuring that the tourism private sector plays a developmental role in the region.
“To use one example, CHA has a responsibility to serve as advocate of the hotel sector it represents. In that role, CHA actively lobbies the governments represented by CTO on issues affecting competitiveness, such as taxation and government regulations. Any merger of CHA and CTO would effectively neutralise such efforts,” he said.
The CHA chief executive added that developments in recent years clearly support the private sector position. In 2001, the CARICOM Heads of Government decided to place the proposed joint regional marketing program under the administration of what at the time was a private sector Trust. Since then, the public sector has come on board to jointly develop and implement the program, dubbed `Life Needs the Caribbean`. On the development front, last year the European Union included the Caribbean private sector in its 8th European Development Fund (EDF) for the first time, designating CHA as the agency to manage the private sector program. In previous agreements, the European Union only assigned development funding to the public sector.
Most recently, Pro-Invest, a partnership program of the European Commission, has just confirmed that it has decided to partner with CHA in their investment funding program for the Caribbean region. In addition, the World Travel & Tourism Council and CHA are partnering to conduct research on the impact of tourism on jobs and the economy of approximately 27 Caribbean countries. To complement this fact-finding exercise, American Express has also teamed up with CHA to conduct consumer research on consumer trends for the Caribbean.
“The vote of confidence of governments and international funding agencies and organisations speaks for itself,” he said.
The statement was made in an effort to dissipate any confusion created at the recent Public/Private Sector Cooperation Workshop co-hosted by CTO and CHA, in conjunction with the World Travel and Tourism Council. At that time CTO Secretary General, Jean Holder, called for a single tourism body in his personal welcome message to delegates.
“It`s important that our members and partners understand that a merger of both organisations is not something that CTO has discussed with CHA, or at the leadership and ministerial level. The goal continues to be an enhanced collaboration wherever possible to maximize opportunities, resources, and benefits,” explained Sanguinetti.
Cooperation, Not New Territory:
“The Caribbean tourism public and private sectors have worked together on several fronts, such as marketing, human resource development, and the environment for almost four decades. Collaboration is not a new concept,” Sanguinetti said.
“What we are now seeking is to take it to a level that will allow CHA and CTO to collaborate in programs that address shared goals, thereby avoiding the duplication of efforts and resources spent on redundant initiatives - without compromising the best interests of our different constituencies,” he added. “CHA is now undergoing a thorough assessment and renewal process to ensure its portfolio of programs and services is relevant to the needs of its members.”
CHA welcomed and praised the initiatives for necessary cooperation by the Honorable Obie Wilchcombe, Minister of Tourism of the Bahamas and Chairman of CTO, who attended the most recent meeting of the CHA Board of Directors held in Dominican Republic last June. “The standing ovation the Minister received following his address to the CHA Board confirms the new spirit of cooperation and commitment that is being developed,” concluded Sanguinetti.