Above: Port of Spain (CJ Photo)
By Alexander Britell
PORT OF SPAIN — Echoing the recent call of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association, Trinidad and Tobago Tourism Minister Stephen Cadiz suggested Thursday that the Caribbean’s political leadership hold a regional forum on tourism.
Cadiz, speaking at the conclusion of the 14th Annual Caribbean Conference on Sustainable Tourism Development, said the Caribbean tourism industry needed support from the regions’ governments.
“There are islands in the Caribbean whose economies depend 100 percent on tourism,” he said. “And yet still, where is the support from the leadership.”
In January, at the conclusion of the CHTA’s Media Marketplace in Nassau, the private sector group called for CARICOM’s Heads of Government to convene a tourism summit within the next six months, citing the “centrality of tourism to future Caribbean prosperity.”
Cadiz seemed to concur.
“It’s ample time that Caribbean leaders, whether you’re in CARICOM or out of CARICOM, there must be a forum and a forum for tourism alone to be attended with the leadership of the various territories,” Cadiz said. “I think we really and truly see the Caribbean come together in the way that it should.”
While the Sustainable Conference did feature a slate of tourism ministers and directors of tourism, Turks and Caicos Premier Dr Rufus Ewing was the only head of government to attend, along with Winston Dookeran, who is serving as the Acting Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago while Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar is in the United States.
Beverly Nicholson-Doty, the Tourism Commissioner of the United States Virgin Islands and Chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organization, told Caribbean Journal that the issue of tourism needed to be higher on the list of regional priorities.
“I think that we certainly support the fact that tourism has to be an agenda item at CARICOM,” she said. “I think that we certainly feel that there are several things – sustainable tourism, aviation — there are discussion points that need to have that type of priority. So I don’t know what the exact forum is. Minister Cadiz certainly presented his idea, but do we support having tourism as a high agenda item within the governments of the region? Absolutely.”
Ewing agreed, saying it was important for the region to “find ways to come together” on the issue.
Whether that manifests itself in a forum remains to be seen.
“I think that, certainly, we may have to look at what that [format] is, but having tourism as a high priority for our governments is critical to survival of the region,” Nicholson-Doty said.