Dr Rufus Ewing, premier of the Turks and Caicos Islands, has echoed a call by Trinidad and Tobago’s Tourism Minister Stephen Cadiz for regional leaders to put tourism high on the agenda.
Premier Rufus Ewing
Ewing, speaking at the final press briefing on Thursday, the last day of the 14th Annual Sustainable Tourism Conference (STC-14), which was held in Port of Spain, Trinidad, said, “Tourism has to be led in front by leaders.”
He was agreeing with a similar sentiment expressed by Cadiz, stating that support from leadership is critical.
“Tourism should be at the forefront of the CARICOM agenda,” he said.
In his remarks, Ewing, who also holds the portfolio for tourism, said more leaders should be involved with conferences such as the Sustainable Tourism Conference.
Expressing concern about intra-regional travel, Ewing also pledged his support for the One Caribbean concept.
“We need to find ways to ensure visitors can move around to get a true Caribbean experience,” he said.
Among those on the panel that addressed the press conference were Cadiz; chair of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and tourism commissioner of US Virgin Islands, Beverly Nicholson-Doty; Hugh Riley, secretary general of the CTO; and permanent secretary in the Trinidad and Tobago Ministry of Tourism, Juliana Johan-Boodram.
Cadiz revealed at the media briefing that a national sustainable tourism policy will be unveiled within the next month. He said once released there will be public consultations with relevant stakeholders.
“Every single thing we do we try to include stakeholders, in every aspect of tourism,” he said.
He said the sustainable tourism plan would form a major part of the new branding and marketing campaign that he is seeking to develop to boost tourism, particularly in Trinidad.
“Tobago already has an established tourism industry, it’s a hit and miss for Trinidad right now,” he said.
During the media conference, Cadiz said the main focus of the marketing campaign would be to help Trinidadians understand what tourism is.
Riley revealed that, at the end of last year (2012), tourist arrivals to the region were up by 5.4 percent.
“We are welcoming more visitors than ever before in our history,” he said, noting that the majority of arrivals still come from traditional markets such as the USA.
Riley revealed, however, that arrivals from the UK were down, due in large part to the increased travel taxation measure of the Air Passenger Duty (APD).
“The APD tax has proven to be a thorn in our side,” he said.
On the issue of intra-regional travel, Riley said there is no instantaneous solution. He said the Caribbean Tourism Organisation comprises members from the English-speaking, Dutch, French and Spanish Caribbean and there are regulatory, safety and security and economic issues to examine.
“We have broken the issue down to manageable chunks and approaching it in a logical way,” he said.
Themed “Keeping the Right Balance: Enhancing Destination Sustainability through Products, Partnerships & Profitability”, STC-14 attracted over 400 participants, the largest ever in the conference’s history.
The conference explored the many ways the Caribbean can enhance destination sustainability and competitiveness in the current global environment by examining a number of critical issues such as destination branding and marketing, increasing year-round visitor spend, good practice models in tourism sustainability and enriching visitor experiences.