Caricom heads of government must do more and act together to tackle some of the structural issues that face the development of the industry.
That was the message delivered by World Travel & Tourism Council president David Scowsill to the annual Caribbean Hotel & Resort Investment Summit in Miami.
Addressing the summit, Scowsill urged the Caribbean’s tourism leaders to work together for the common good of the region.
He explained: “Tourism has a profound effect on the Caribbean’s economies, policies, cultures and environments.
“For many islands tourism is their primary industry.
“If the industry is booming, everyone feels the benefit. If it slumps, everyone suffers.
“The industry here is facing challenges in terms of competing with other long haul destinations, climate and sustainability issues, and the impact of recession and taxes in the core markets of the USA and Europe.
“Tourism in the Caribbean is delivering jobs, income and prosperity to many.
“The countries of the Caribbean must recognise that they are immeasurably stronger when they act together, than when they act alone.”
Tourism’s total is a fundamental driver of the economy of the Caribbean countries, contributing 14 per cent of GDP in 2012, almost 50 per cent more than the nine per cent that the industry contributes on average across the globe.
In 2012, the industry also supported two million direct, indirect and induced jobs in 2012 representing 12 per cent of total employment in the region.
But there is still more to do to maximise the region’s potential.
Scowsill implored Caricom: “They need to work together on common visas for the entire region, to develop aviation policies which remove restrictions to encourage more airlines to operate and bring down air fares for travellers, to reduce taxation on tourists and to maximise investment in the sector.”
He also singled out airline connectivity as another issue which is holding back tourism growth.
“There are so many beautiful islands in this region, but getting from one island to another isn’t easy and involves multiple flights.
“More direct flight links are needed to stimulate visitor numbers to smaller islands and generate increased tourism activity.
“The CTO has recognised this need and should be congratulated on establishing its new Aviation Committee which I hope will facilitate and increase inter-island flight connections.”