Caribbean tourism leaders and European Union (EU) officials have ended the first Caribbean tourism summit in the European capital with a greater understanding of each other’s concerns regarding the tourism sector. A delegation of regional tourism leaders – led by the chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), the Hon. Ricky Skerritt, and including tourism ministers from five other Caribbean countries, came to the heart of Europe’s decision-making machinery to stress the importance of a policy agenda towards tourism.
At meetings held at the European parliament and the African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) grouping headquarters, the two sides discussed key subjects including ways to bridge the gap between policy intentions and practice; sources of funding for tourism development; tourism, aviation and taxation; tourism, education, and social development; tourism and climate change; and how the tourism sector can benefit from the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the Caribbean and Europe.
At the end of the session the CTO Chairman said there were six key conclusions from the talks:
- Tourism is a significant sector for both the EU and the Caribbean and both regions have much to do to advance the policy discussion to ensure that tourism is given the attention and support that it deserves.
- There are various types of funding available in the EU and the EPA to support tourism-related initiatives, and there is a need to establish modalities to work together to ensure that such funding is chanelled towards priority areas, including tourism – and that Caribbean public and private sectors must reach consensus on the priority areas.
- Aviation taxation and Emission Trading Schemes are real threats to Caribbean tourism.
- Tourism is a major driver of economic and social development in the Caribbean and any negative impact on tourism will have far reaching consequences across the range of services that might be wholly unrelated to the sector but that rely in part on government funding through income from tourism.
- While the Caribbean has not been a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions it will suffer significantly from the impact of climate change, but the Caribbean can be a world leader in conservation and climate change initiatives.
- The Caribbean heard that the EPA contains specific commitments to the sustainable development of tourism. It seems that both CARIFORUM and the EU have some distance to go before these provisions can be finalized, but the hope is that this forum will have prompted a closer, more effective partnership that will achieve the goal of sustainable development of a thriving tourism economy.
In addition to Chairman Skerritt, the Caribbean delegation included Ministers Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace of the Bahamas, Manuel Heredia of Belize, Ed Bartlett of Jamaica; as well as the Secretary of Tourism for Tobago, Oswald Williams; the junior Minister of Tourism from Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. Delmon Baker; the CARICOM Secretary General (Ag) Ambassador Lolita Applewhaite; the CTO Secretary General Hugh Riley; the President of the Caribbean Hotel Association Josef Forstmayr; the CEO of the CHTA Alec Sanguinetti; and directors of tourism and Caribbean ambassadors based in Brussels.