Editorial: Looking to Latin America

By: Caribbean Journal Staff - June 12, 2011

Brazilian air carrier TAM

A Caribbean Journal editorial

The shortest distance between Trinidad and Venezuela, at the Paria peninsula, is just seven miles. But as the World Bank’s most recent Global Economic Prospects report showed this week, the economic distance between Latin America and the Caribbean has perhaps never been greater.

While much of Latin America, led by Brazil, has stormed through and largely ignored the global downturn, the Caribbean, in depending heavily on North America, has struggled.

To be sure, Latin American growth over the last several years has come, as World Bank Economist Cristina Savescu told Caribbean Journal, from strength in the commodities sector — resources which the Caribbean (not considering pending offshore oil surveys in the Bahamas) does not have in particularly great supply.

But, as Savescu noted, the Caribbean can, and needs to, diversify its tourism-heavy economy by looking to the Latin American market, and a continent full of newly-rich tourists ready to relax on sandy beaches.

Jamaica should be applauded for taking the initiative in this area. The country’s tourism minister, Ed Bartlett, announced at the end of last month that the Jamaica Tourist Board had negotiated deals to bring 10,000 Latin American visitors to the island, from countries like Brazil, Chile and Colombia.

But it will take far more effort, both from tourist boards in the region, and private investors, to make a sufficient headway into the market. It should be comforting, however, that the region has never found difficulty in persuading British tourists to make the nearly 10-hour flight from London to Kingston — comparatively, a five-hour journey from Sao Paolo seems like a commuter flight.

Given the two areas’ proximity, tapping the Latin American market is a logical next step for the Caribbean. The Latin American growth machine will not run forever, and now is the time to make sure that the flow of Reals, Pesos and Bolivars finds its way to the islands of the West Indies.

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