The Caribbean Hotel Association (CHA), is undertaking an extensive fact-finding exercise across the region to develop a private-sector position on services in the Caribbean tourism industry. In conjunction with the London-based Caribbean Council and the Caribbean Society of Hotel Association Executives (CSHAE), CHA representatives will be holding in March and April 2003 a series of meetings and focus groups with stakeholders at all levels of the hospitality industry to identify the most important issues that must be addressed.
The resulting document will be presented to the group of regional organizations involved in developing a public/private region-wide consensus on tourism services: The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), the Caribbean / Latin American Action (C/LAA), and the Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery (CRNM).
“Tourism has long been recognized as the region’s most important industry, a leading source of employment, tax revenue and foreign exchange. Unfortunately, it is not being considered to any significant extent in international trade negotiations, and the potential consequences will be important to the future competitiveness of Caribbean Tourism,” said David Jessop, Director of the Caribbean Council.
The private sector will be addressing pressing issues such as the trading practices of cruise ships; access of small tourism services to Computer Reservations Services (CRS) and Global Distribution Systems (GDS); global recognition for regional credential and certification systems; and the problem of temporary business entry, among others.
“This is an important step for the private sector in helping Caribbean governments and their negotiators to develop a common regional approach,” said Berthia Parle, CHA’s 1st Vice President and Chairperson of the CHA Advocacy Committee.
“Considering how much is at stake, CHA intends to engage everyone in this process, from the biggest players in tourism in the region, such as the Caribbean airlines and large hotel groups, to the smallest interests, such as exist in the entertainment or ground transport industry.”
It is expected that a common regional approach will allow Caribbean negotiators to have a clear understanding of the significance of the tourism industry to the region and the challenges it faces, and factor it all in their trade negotiations - which include World Trade Organization/ General Agreement in Trade in Services (WTO/GATS), and the Free Trade of the Americas (FTAA), negotiations and the African, Caribbean and Pacific - European Union (ACP-EU)
, negotiations for Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), - on behalf of the Caribbean.