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 New Caribbean Hotel Association President, Mrs. Berthia Parle, MBE, Draws Attention from Heads of Government on
the Region's Major Economic Engine - Tourism

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ST GEORGE'S, Grenada (July 6, 2004) - Two weeks after her inauguration as the first female President of the Caribbean Hotel Association (CHA), Mrs. Berthia Parle, MBE, captured the attention of the CARICOM Heads of Government at their 25th regular meeting on July 5th, 2004 in Grenada, with a short, straightforward presentation. She presented some of the most meaningful results from the recently released WTTC Report on the impact of travel and tourism in the Caribbean[a], highlighting the importance of tourism for the region, and concluded her address by imploring the CARICOM leaders to "consider our request for an Annual Tourism Congress with all Heads of Government, Ministers and Directors of Tourism, and private sector leaders, to discuss and consider key policy recommendations and actions to advance our mutual interest in tourism." 
 
Presentation by the Caribbean Hotel Association to the 25th Regular
Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the
Caribbean Community (CARICOM) 
July 5, 2004

The Caribbean Hotel Association is pleased to have this very brief opportunity to update the Heads of Government of CARICOM on the Caribbean tourism industry and in particular, the results of the just released WTTC study.

The need for such a study was recommended at the COFAP meeting in Dominica in September 2002. The study, commissioned by CHA and carried out by the World Travel and Tourism Council, is the first ever study on the impact of travel and tourism on the economy and jobs in the Caribbean. It provides a series of policy recommendations to maximize the industry’s impact on individual economies and the Caribbean as a whole. The study uses the standards developed by the United Nations Statistics Commission under the Tourism Satellite Accounting model.

As Mr. David Jessop, of the Caribbean Council, has indicated in his newsletter “The Week in Europe”, it is felt that traditional “public sector analysis overlooks or understates the true impact of the industry by dealing only with individual components.” The Satellite Accounting model encompasses economic information across the full tourism product service chain. Mr. Jessop goes on to point out that Satellite Accounting “sets out to understand the linkages between travel & tourism and other sectors of the economy, including agriculture and manufacturing. It takes-in the effect that the industry has on stimulating domestic production, employment, human resource development and a wide range of other economic factors, including trade balances and infrastructure development.”

The research took place in the spring of 2004 and included 18 focus groups totaling more that 100 participants from 96 public and private sector organizations representing the full scale of socioeconomic interests. We have engaged trade unions, taxicab associations, craft vendors associations, cruises, on-island tours and attractions, among others.

The research clearly shows the economic intensity of Travel & Tourism in the Caribbean, and laments the little awareness and understanding of the industry’s contribution and how it permeates the general economy and overall fabric of Caribbean society.

The report states “linking Travel & Tourism to the rest of the economy is not rocket science”. It can be done and we have been talking about it for the last 30 years.  Our challenge however lies in the implementation, execution, and organized dedicated resources by each country to guarantee accomplishment with proper follow through.

A copy of the study has already been sent to each CARICOM Head and I would like to mention a few of the highlights contained in the study:

  • Travel and tourism will be an enormous catalyst for future economic and social development in the Caribbean and has the potential to be a major player in the alleviation of poverty.
  • In 2004, Travel and Tourism is expected to contribute 14.8% of the Caribbean’s GDP and account for 2.4 million jobs, directly and indirectly.  Over the next ten years, this sector is forecasted to contribute 16.5% of GDP and account for 3.2 million direct and indirect jobs.
  • The impact of the industry, however, is generally not understood by public officials, the industry itself, or the communities where it takes place. This lack of understanding accounts for generally inadequate policy responses on the part of Governments and lost opportunities on the part of civil society and private enterprise. An industrial campaign to ensure all stakeholders recognize Travel and Tourism’s full impact across national economies is urgently needed.
  • Long term planning at both the national and regional level is a pre-requisite for generating investor confidence. CHA and CTO should convene a Caribbean Tourism Congress that will be responsible for establishing and maintaining a regional strategic plan for the Caribbean. The Congress should include the most senior and influential private sector leaders along with the Ministers and Directors of Tourism representing the broadest possible range of industry sectors and tourism destinations. We can no longer rely on spontaneous ad-hoc development. We say it’s time to take stock and make travel and tourism a strategic economic priority.
  • A dedicated effort and resources must be organized by each Caribbean Government to enable the Ministry of Tourism to guarantee a focused approach to establishing effective linkages between travel and tourism and the rest of the economy.
  • Because of the fundamental importance of tourism to the economies of almost all Caribbean countries and the well being of their people, it is crucial to put in place an investment strategy that will encourage growth in the tourism sector. An integral part of this strategy is to examine the availability of financing and access to equity and risk capital, especially for the small hotels and other sectors such as tour companies, restaurants and attractions.  CHA has taken a first step by promoting the launching of a Tourism Investment Fund to harness resources for this purpose. The British Government has committed to provide us with financing for the development of a prospectus for the Fund, and other regional and multilateral financial institutions have shown interest in the venture.
  • There is a need for the creation of a viable Caribbean air transport system to supplement the services being provided by the external carriers and to guarantee the sustainability of air transport to the region. On this point, Mr.  Jean Claude Baumgarten has said, “When the stars are aligned, Caribbean airlift matches Caribbean tourism. When they are not aligned, Caribbean tourism can suffer. We need to manage our destiny, because no one will do it for us.”
  • The regional authorities, public and private sector, should undertake to develop and agree on a regional cruise line strategy that addresses the multitude of issues of concern to the industry. Consideration should be given to the creation of a treaty based Caribbean Cruise Policy Commission to be charged with development and implementation of the regional strategy. CHA believes that the integration of the cruise industry into the mainstream Caribbean travel & tourism should be a central objective.
The tourism sector is perceived as an attractive tax target for governments. In addition to taxes imposed by Caribbean governments, tourists are often faced with an array of travel related taxes that are now arguably the fastest growing area of travel related costs. This makes it even more important that taxes that are applied to the industry are equitable and where possible, hypothecated. One of the most contentious issues in the region is the inequitable treatment of land based tourists compared with cruise passengers. The former pay significant departure taxes while the latter pay a token port charge, if anything.
  • The study makes many other practical observations in the area of regional and national marketing, environmental management and stewardship, safety and security, health provisions, including HIV/AIDS, for which the Travel and Tourism industry assumes its social responsibility.
The WTTC report quantifies the impact of travel and tourism on individual economies as well as the region and I encourage you to examine this document with your Cabinets in order that it may have the intended impact.  In other developments, I must advise you that CHA, CTO and the FCCA held a joint meeting to identify areas of cooperation and to establish a more constructive working relationship. In addition, the Directors of Marketing of CHA and CTO have also had meetings with CLIA, the marketing arm of the cruise lines, and they have exchanged information in an effort to identify areas of joint marketing cooperation and a pooling of resources.

In the area of trade, the ongoing international trade negotiations and the treatment of tourism within the regional services market are of critical importance to the future development of the tourism industry. CHA has submitted its recommendations in regards to the tourism industry to the Regional Negotiating Machinery and we are disappointed to learn that tourism issues were not on the agenda for the just concluded COTED meeting held on July 2. Trade negotiations are critical in terms of increasing the competitiveness of the Caribbean tourism industry. Our recommendations include among others, such areas as using trade negotiations to attract increased foreign investment by enhancing stability and predictability for investors, enhancing Mode 4 market access, and lowering the cost of tourism inputs of both goods and services. A copy of CHA’s position paper on this subject has been submitted to you.

On a related subject, CHA supports the introduction of the Caribbean Single Market Economy scheme, by January 2005, and we commit our full and meaningful participation in this historic initiative. However, there is scarcity of information about the benefits and opportunities of CSME and CHA would like to request that seminars are provided to educate and engage the Travel and Tourism industry in this initiative.  Caribbean tourism arrivals increased by 7.0% in 2003 and this positive trend is continuing through 2004. However there can be no room for complacency. The need to maintain the current tourism growth for the long term with sustainable funding, and more importantly, to overcome the serious deficiencies that were having a negative impact on our industry prior to 9/11, and still continue to do so, is of paramount importance and urgency. Consider the following facts:

  • Based on CTO figures for 2003, there were 5.27 million visitors arrivals to CARICOM states with an estimated expenditure of $5.5 billion.
  • CHA represents 816 hotels in the Caribbean, of which an ample majority is in CARICOM and associate member states.
  • Tourism is the major economic engine in 97% of the CARICOM states and the major provider of jobs.
We would like to recognize and compliment the Caribbean Governments that have embraced this industry and to encourage other governments to follow their example.  Many governments have spent time, efforts and resources to study the issues and formulate recommendations and plans about various aspects of the policy agenda and are head and shoulders above the rest, who continue to bury their heads in their sandy beaches as if tourism does not exist.

It would be remiss of me not to use some of these precious minutes to speak on behalf of our fraternity of regional tourism interests.

Honourable Presidents, Prime Ministers and Leaders, we are firm in our commitment to establish lasting strategic partnerships with all public sector agencies and regional institutions, and believe that this commitment can only be truly meaningful if the tourism industry has your full political support. Considering my presentation today; and armed with information already in your possession from your own national Ministries of Finance & Central Statistical Offices; and now with the results of this WTTC study on tourism’s impact on jobs and on the economies of 23 Caribbean countries, I implore you to consider our request for an Annual Tourism Congress with all Heads of Government, Ministers and Directors of Tourism, and private sector leaders, to discuss and consider key policy recommendations and actions to advance our mutual interest in tourism. 

The last tourism summit was held in 2001 which followed the previous tourism summit held ten years earlier in 1991. This industry, which is so vital to the future economic development of the Caribbean and welfare of its people, can not, and should not, wait another 10 years for the next tourism summit. Let us not give WTTC reason to state in the study that “the economic benefits of the tourism industry is generally not understood by public officials, the industry itself, or the communities where it takes place”.

I sincerely trust that our appeal will be heard. Remember that my plea is the desire of my regional constituency of 816 hotels and 700 Associate Members, including the most important Caribbean and foreign investors and chain hotels, who are eager and very much willing to commit to a permanent forum for policy dialogue with the political leadership of this very heavily tourism-dependent Caribbean region.  In closing, to paraphrase Jeffrey Lipman, Special Advisor to the World Tourism Organisation, “Hon. Prime Ministers, what is now needed is a visionary focus on this win-win sector by all Caribbean islands as a development tool par excellence, and the political will at the national and institutional level, to put tourism at the core of policymaking.” I ask for your positive consideration.

July 5, 2004

The discussion on travel and tourism - which was slated to last ten minutes - went on for close to an hour. "We are thrilled to have triggered the interest of the CARICOM Heads of Government, and we will strive to increase it to the levels deserved by this major industry," said Mrs. Parle. "The importance of travel and tourism to the Caribbean is indisputable, although the industry's potential is a long way from being fully tapped," she added.
 

In her inauguration speech, given on June 16, 2004 at the Wyndham el Conquistador in Puerto Rico, at the annual Caribbean Hospitality Industry Conference (CHIC), Mrs. Parle, MBE, had insisted that the tourism industry "must work very closely with all [their] partners in the public sector, for it is [the Caribbean's] governments, who are ultimately challenged with the responsibility of managing the industry and [the region's] economies." True to her word, Mrs. Parle has already made significant progress in keeping her promises.

About the Caribbean Hotel Association - www.caribbeanhotels.org

The Caribbean Hotel Association is 


CHA President Berthia Parle assumed the leadership
of CHA for the 2004-2006 biennium at the Caribbean
Hotel Industry Conference (CHIC) 2004, in Puerto
Rico. In the picture, with Chairman Simón B. Suárez.
dedicated to excellence in hospitality, leadership in marketing, and sustainable growth in tourism, to the benefit of its membership and that of the wider Caribbean community. It aims to be a regional forum that will advance the Caribbean hotel and tourism industry. The members of CHA represent the entire spectrum of hospitality industry's private sector, from 835 member hotels representing some 127,000 hotel rooms in 36 national hotel associations, to 520 allied members including airline executives, tour operators, travel agents, trade and consumer press, hotel and restaurant suppliers, and others.

[a] "The Caribbean: The impact of Travel and Tourism on Jobs and the Economy". The report was conducted by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), commissioned by CHA and sponsored by American Express


 
 
Contact:
Caribbean Hotel Association
Lorraine Ortiz
lortiz@caribbeanhotels.org
1000 Ponce de Leon Avenue, 5th Floor
San Juan, PR, 00907
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Also See: Strategic Objectives of the Caribbean in Tourism Development Speech by Simón B. Suárez, Dominican Hotelier and President, Caribbean Hotel Association / November 2003
Berthia Parle, general manager of Bay Gardens Hotel in St. Lucia Voted CHA President Elect and Recognized as the 2003 Caribbean Hotelier of the Year / June 2003
Caribbean Hotel Association, Formed in 1962, Re-examining its Goals, Products and Services / Aug 2003


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