Caribbean may cash in on unrest in Middle East, says CTO’s Richard Skerritt

Senator Hon Richard Skerritt

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, MARCH 3RD 2011 (CUOPM) – Chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO), Sen. the Hon. Richard Skerritt said Caribbean countries are seeking to lure tourists to their shores as holiday makers temporarily avoid the Middle East as a result of unrest caused by persons seeking to overthrow undemocratic governments in the region.

“Every country has been growing in travel and tourism as a drive for economic growth. Middle East has been doing so too and some long-haul travel will be transferred elsewhere, at least in the short term,” said Mr. Skerritt, also St. Kitts and Nevis’ Minister of Tourism and International Transport.

“We expect some of the business diverting from Middle East could come to the Caribbean,” said Skerritt in a CMC interview.

Tourism officials hope that the situation in the Middle East may prove as a boost to the region’s tourism from the United Kingdom which has been significantly affected by aviation passenger tax (APD).

Last November, the Barbados-based CTO said it had proposed reforming the controversial APD with Britain charging one rate for flights within Europe and another for long-haul journeys.

Before November 1, each economy class traveler to the Caribbean paid £50 (US$77) in APD, but that tax was increased to £75 (US $115) – the second in as many years. The levy for premium economy, business and first class passengers rose from £100 (US$154) to £150 (US$291).

“In Barbados, for example, there will be a huge percentage change in the number of British visitors between 2009 and 2010, which has fallen from 40 percent to 34 percent [of total arrivals]. The fact is that British arrivals to the Caribbean are down,” Skerrit said.

The CTO said it would look to strengthen its trade communication and warned that travelers could begin to avoid UK airports in the future.

Meanwhile, Caribbean tourism is expected to increase through the cruise industry, although it has outlined some potential problems.

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