Josef Forstmayr, president of the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA), said the organization is very disappointed that tourism is not an agenda item at the CARICOM meeting, despite the fact that three years ago CARICOM heads decided to make tourism a regular agenda item at all meetings of the body.
“We need to continue to remind our own people that ‘tourism business means jobs’ not only in the hotels, but for the taxis, the restaurants and the farmers and fishermen that fill the restaurants with food. It also means work for the seamstress, crafts people, shopkeepers and manufacturers, including all their workers plus the deliverymen as well as the trash collectors,” he said.
Forstmayr also urged CARICOM heads to fix the regional aviation crisis and facilitate ease of travel for Caribbean nationals throughout the region.
“We have heard that several heads of government at this meeting had called for reduction in travel restrictions,” said the CHTA President. “This is crucial if we are to return to the 1.5 million intra-Caribbean visitors that helped fill vacant rooms at our Caribbean hotels just a few years ago. An efficient and dynamic aviation policy is fundamental to the economic development of the region and this includes the tourism industry.”
The number of intra-Caribbean visitors was down to just 566,000 last year according to statistics from the Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO).