Caribbean Tourism Sector Making Gains


President of the Caribbean Hotel Association (CHA), Simon Suarez, has indicated that the tourism sector across the Caribbean has recovered and made gains since a number of international events over the last few years that had a negative impact on tourism.
Speaking at the eighth annual Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Investment Conference, which commenced at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Montego Bay on Monday (May 10), Mr. Suarez said that the Caribbean hotel and tourism industry had crossed a significant milestone by ultimately prevailing over those events, adding that regional hoteliers have waited and planned for a recovery that was well on track.
“The Caribbean is now enjoying more airlift from the United Kingdom, Europe and North America than ever before. Forecasts from our colleagues in the Caribbean Tourism Organisation predict that the number of stay-over visitors will increase to over 30 million by 2010.
This translates to growth of more than 50 per cent over ten years, as a result of continued expansion of the world tourism market,” he said.
He warned however, that while the outlook seemed impressive there were still challenges to face within the industry. He advised Caribbean players in the tourism sector to seize the momentum to focus on the development and enhancement of their product, as the industry could not grow without the necessary capacity.
The CHA President said that a fundamental step towards improving the hotel and tourism investment climate in the Caribbean would be a major review of tourism taxation in the region. This, he said, should be carried out with a view towards increasing the region’s competitiveness with other destinations, and with the cruise shipping industry.
Minister of Industry and Tourism, Aloun Ndombet-Assamba, told the conference that whereas tourism was at the heart of the economies of several countries in the region, it carried tremendous potential for development in others. She justified that view by sharing statistics, which showed that despite a 1.2 per cent decline in world tourism arrivals, the Caribbean region hosted some 20 million stop-over visitors in 2003, which translated into a seven per cent increase over 2002.
“Where earnings are concerned, the region had suffered a decline from US$19.5 billion in 2001 to US$18.8 billion in 2002, but preliminary indications are that there was growth of around 10 per cent in 2003, in line with Jamaica’s improved earnings performance of nearly 11 per cent. In the first three months of 2004, the region’s growth has continued with the Dominican Republic enjoying an increase of nine per cent, The Bahamas 7.9 per cent, Cayman 8.6 per cent and Jamaica 7.0 per cent.
April was a bumper month as stop-over arrivals in Jamaica increased by 17.5 per cent,” she said.
She pointed to the fact that world trade and market conditions have forced countries of the Caribbean region to make a shift in their areas of productive emphasis, and to prioritise those in which they enjoyed comparative advantage. The hospitality industry offered this region the most compelling opportunity, she emphasised.
Meanwhile, President of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), Godfrey Dyer, who chaired the official opening ceremony, noted that tourism was at present, and would continue to be the main business activity for the Caribbean islands, adding that his organisation and its members were fully committed to working within and outside of Jamaica, to improve the attractiveness of the region, the quality of the tourism product, and to strengthen the linkages between tourism and other sectors of the economy.
He said that the players in Jamaica’s tourism sector have much to share with their colleagues throughout the Caribbean, which relates to local efforts towards greening of the destination; strategies towards improving education and technical abilities of personnel in the industry, and the adoption of industry-wide service standards.
“Across the island, investment is occurring apace in the hospitality and tourism industry with new players entering, and stalwarts expanding and renewing their product. In this regard, we must congratulate the government of Jamaica, and the investment agency JAMPRO, on the successes to date, and we look forward to this conference helping to increase those numbers even further,” he said.
The eight annual conference of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Investment conference will continue until Wednesday, May 12. This is the second time that this organisation is staging its conference in Jamaica, as its second annual conference was staged in Jamaica in 1998.

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