Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association president Josef Forstmayr has issued a rousing call to arms to fellow industry insiders during the 15th annual Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Investment Conference (CHTIC) in Montego Bay, Jamaica.
Breaking Travel News here reveals his remarks and considers what his agenda might mean for the development of tourism in Caribbean.
Josef Forstmayr, 15th Annual Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Investment Conference
“Welcome to Jamaica and the 15th Annual Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Investment Conference.
“I would also like to share with you a brief look at where we are right now in the Caribbean hospitality industry which CHTA represents.
“We are recovering from one of the worst global economic downturns in history and I can tell you that the Caribbean hotel industry weathered the storm and is enjoying renewed interest and the benefits of pent up demand for our brand of warm-weather vacations.
“However, there are challenges and we remain vigilant in our job to protect and preserve our industry.
“Tourism is Key remains our top priority in urging the citizens and governments of all Caribbean nations to recognize tourism as the number one industry generating jobs in the region.
“Once again, I quote prime minister David Cameron of Great Britain who said: ‘For too long tourism has been looked down on as a second class service sector. It is fundamental to the rebuilding and rebalancing of our economy. It is one of the best and fastest ways of generating the jobs we need so badly in this country’.
“For the Caribbean it will be crucial that our governments embrace the economic importance of the tourism industry as a major generator of jobs.
“An important focus at this conference for me will be to highlight that improving airlift must be one four top priorities.
“Affordable air service remains one of our biggest challenges.
“We all suffer when a carrier reduces or eliminates service to a destination.
“Rising fuel costs, increased airport user fees and taxes create additional challenges as air fares rise making vacations more costly or sometimes even result in reduced services.
“Airlift is also one of the top three items on developers’ lists when researching investment opportunities.
“I am strongly urging all our Caribbean governments to accept this premise.
“Not accepting this clear message will simply lead to no new investors coming to the region, present investments will dry up and go bust, and existing industry will continue to under-perform.
“It is time that all our Caribbean governments and the entire private sector get off our collective butts and work together to get over this hurdle.
“We are ready for this and we are challenging our governments to join us at CHTA.
“We need more regional integration, less visas, more airlift, less taxation and I urge once again, that our country, Jamaica takes the lead to establish funding for a regional marketing campaign.
“The time to act is now,” concluded Forstmayr.
Tourism is Key
CHTA president Forstmayr went on to outline the recently launched Tourism is Key ad campaign.
The initiative will remind the industry of the importance of tourism in the Caribbean, pointing out tourism directly and indirectly employs more than 1.9 million people in the Caribbean (one in every nine jobs).
The sector also accounts for 12.8 per cent of the Caribbean’s economic activity (GDP) - more than in any other region in the world.
Moving on, Forstmayr said the four pillars of the “Tourism is Key” campaign are:
Advocacy with governments and citizens.
Linkages of tourism into local industry, agriculture and services.
Regional integration (improved airlift, less bureaucracy for regional travel).