|Carib Nations Must Tap Tourism Potential|
|Friday, 23 May 2008|
Port of Spain, May 21 (Prensa Latina) A fund of $188 million dollars for a marketing drive of the Caribbean destination was proposed by St. Lucia´s Tourism and Civil Aviation minister, Senator Allen Chastanet, reported Newsday of Trinidad and Tobago.
The newspaper´s envoy to the 17th Caribbean Media Exchange on Sustainable Tourism at the Holiday Inn San Juan in Puerto Rico, says Chastanet urged governments of the region to step out of the box, take a different perspective and tap into the potential of tourism.
The time for talk is done," Chastanet passionately declared, saying he will resign from his portfolio if Caricom leaders do not accept the $188 million proposal in July.
Terestella Denton, executive director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company also threatened to resign her post if regional governments failed to approve the marketing drive as she agreed with Chastanet's stance, saying the time for action is now.
Chastanet said the Caribbean has squandered its opportunities and is now facing a crisis in the tourism sector as spiralling oil prices threaten to cut off the region's air links with the rest of the world.
"We need to step up to the plate because there are other countries in the world who recognize what tourism can do." Chastanet lamented that while the regional tourism sector experiences an annual growth rate of four percent, the international rate is seven percent.
The Caribbean's share of the tourism market has also fallen from 4.5 percent to 2.5 percent.
Speaking with reporters he revealed that all tourism ministers in the region will meet on May 29 in Antigua as well as on June 24 in Washington, leading up to the Caricom summit in July, where one day has been set aside to deal with the tourism issue.
Asked what measures regional governments will put in place to deal with the tourism crisis, Chastanet said the first issue was increasing demand.
"We've got to create a stronger demand which can produce a higher yield," he said. This would come about by improving linkages with the tourism industry and other industries such as music and real estate.
Chastanet said the issue of airline subsidies has to be re-considered. "The airline industry is a bridge. It's infrastructure. You got to treat it as a long-term investment, because (in) this region without aviation we're dead."
He criticized governments for levying departure taxes and raising landing fees for airlines when they should be aiding the survival of the air bridge. "We have to look at a different method," he noted.
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