Minister of Tourism and Entertainment, Hon. Dr. Wykeham McNeill, has appealed for more collaboration within the tourism sector in the Caribbean, with a view to speaking with one voice on all issues affecting the sector.
Declaring open the joint Caribbean Tourism Summit and Outlook Seminar, at the Ritz Carlton Golf and Spa Resort in Montego Bay, on June 15, the Minister underscored the importance of open skies, and facilitating travel in the Caribbean.
“There are some real issues of common importance to us as a region, and it is imperative that we address these issues as a body with common interests. If we can better foster co-operation amongst ourselves, I am sure it will be beneficial for all,” the Minister said.
Dr. McNeill argued that globalisation and global travel present both opportunities and challenges to the Caribbean region, adding that now, more than ever, there is need within the region for a pooling of knowledge, resources and strengths.
The Minister said the Summit’s agenda is aimed at taking an indepth look at common tourism issues affecting all the countries of the region, and expressed the hope that the sessions will bring about much needed dialogue on matters, such as travel facilitation, airlift into the region and the overall competitiveness of the Caribbean’s tourism product.
The Minister pointed out that almost every country within the region has its own Air Policy. "What we do not have, and what we have to work on more, is to develop one regional Air Policy," he emphasised.
Dr. McNeill said the discussions must also surround other major issues affecting the tourism sector within the region, such as the Air Passenger Duty (APD) imposed by the United Kingdom; and the benefit of tourism to the economy of countries in the region, among others.
To make the discussions and recommendations at the conference available across the region, he said the Ministry has invited a team from the University of the West Indies, led by Professor Ian Boxill, to document the outcomes with a view to preparing a report for publication, and for further academic and wider discourse.
Meanwhile, President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), David Scowsill, concurred with the Minister that a united voice is needed across the region in the interest of the tourism sector.
“This is far too an important industry not to speak with one cohesive voice, either globally or across the Caribbean,” he said.
Mr. Scowsill appealed for a move towards promoting a common visa requirement across the Caribbean region.
The two-day Joint Caribbean Tourism Summit and Outlook Seminar will end on June 16.