The importance of public/private partnerships, a stronger stance against crime, and a united approach to cruise tourism were enumerated as the main ingredients for sustainable Caribbean tourism.
The remarks were made at the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s Caribbean Media Awards Luncheon that was held on 6 June at the Wyndham New Yorker Hotel in New York by Bahamas Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, The Rt. Honorable Perry G. Christie, M.P., told Caribbean Heads of Government, Tourism Ministers and delegates including BVI Premier Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith.
As lead spokesperson on tourism in CARICOM and the Caribbean Region, Hon. Christie began his address by noting the prospect of public/private partnership and told the gathering that he was speaking from experience, as his country has been benefiting from such partnership: “…As we espouse public/private partnerships at the regional level, it is of primary importance that we do so as individual countries. The Bahamas has served as a model in the Caribbean Region of cooperation and partnership between The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism funded by the Government and private sector Promotion Boards funded by resort levies collected from hotel guests, in supporting marketing, promotions and airlift. While this model has served us well over time, with present realities and the ever changing dynamics of the tourism industry, it needs to be overhauled to embrace greater opportunities and yield better results both for business and for the public good.”
Hon. Christie explained that there is a study by an independent firm in consultation with the public and private sector stakeholders, to recommend the pooling of financial and human resources in a more effective, efficient and collaborative process under an amalgamated entity which would take over these functions. The new entity would be governed by a Board of Directors nominated by the Government and the private sector. “As a part of the Study successful models in major, mature destinations are also being examined. We expect to complete this exercise and implement the study recommendations shortly,” he divulged.
The Bahamas Prime Minister announced that the task at hand to grow Caribbean tourism at a faster rate, to expand the various economies to meet the rising expectations of the region’s growing populations in a highly competitive and challenging global environment, calls for innovation and change in the way the Caribbean does business, and in the quality, variety and delivery of product offerings.
It is no longer about sun, sea, and sand, Hon. Christie warned and he asked for a change of mindset: “We should take advantage of our heritage and not run away from it, and feature predominately our rich culture, our festivals, our literature and traditions, our wonderful art and craft, the bounty of nature, the abundant and for the most part pristine biodiversity of our land and seas, diverse and awesome topography, our gorgeous seas and beaches, our celebrated music and cuisine,” he advised.
“The human element of our product, the Caribbean people, should be seen as our most important asset. Our people have the inborn qualities with sufficient training and motivation to provide the best service and deliver the best product to be found anywhere. In an increasingly competitive environment, nothing less is expected by the customer,” he added.
The seasonality of tourism has always been a debilitating factor and the Prime Minister in his charge for change pointed out opportunities to make tourism a 365 business. He disclosed that there are opportunities for year round travel in large numbers in areas such as sports, religious, medical, educational, cultural tourism, meetings, conventions, business, travel; and suggested that the region becomes the second home market for international business centers and the like. He urged the gathering to consider these opportunities as he noted that this type of tourism creates spinoff benefits for entrepreneurs, service providers, local institutions, other sectors of the economy and positively impacts government revenues.
He said that now is the time for Caribbean tourism countries to embrace these opportunities, and stated that his country is already moving towards those prospects: “We in the Region must do what we are doing in The Bahamas in upgrading public infrastructure…The potential and benefits of Caribbean tourism have never been greater,” he said.
Understanding the crippling threat crime poses to Caribbean tourism, the Prime Minister said that the region must aggressively and in a united manner address the menace of crime and the resulting cautionary travel advisories.