CTO Chairman Ricky Skerritt urges investment in region’s people

CTO Chairman and Minister of Tourism of St. Kitts and Nevis, Senator the Hon. Ricky Skerritt, addressing the 2012 Invest Caribbean Now forum. (Sharon Bennett image)

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, JUNE 18TH2012 (CUOPM) – The Caribbean needs investment partners who will join hands with or the long-term and invest in the easily trainable Caribbean people.

That’s the word from Chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and Minister of Tourism of St. Kitts and Nevis, Senator the Hon. Ricky Skerritt.

Mr. Skerritt made the call at the recent Invest Caribbean Now power forum, hosted in New York City by digital media company Hard Beat Communications and the CTO.

“Caribbean people are really our most valuable asset and represent a genuine and critical source of what makes our region so special,” said the CTO Chair. “I therefore submit to you that investing in Caribbean people development must be an essential portion of any major tourism investment in our region.”

Pointing to the growth in the region’s tourism sector last year, Minister Skerritt insisted that the Caribbean’s proximity to the US makes it both a prime tourist destination and a secondary home location.

“With the public investment programs of so many of our Caribbean governments having been compromised because of recent fiscal shocks, there should now be more opportunities than ever before for private investors to get involved in financing, designing, building, and even operating, select public sector infrastructure and services projects,” he added.

One of the world’s most renowned and successful entrepreneurs, Sir Richard Branson, was this year’s inaugural Leadership Award recipient. Branson, in his acceptance remarks, reiterated Skerritt’s statement, insisting “that while tourism will always remain a key industry, there’s so much more to attract investment to these beautiful and vibrant islands, not least, the people.”

“Let’s work together more than ever, from this day forward, to create an entrepreneurial Paradise, in Paradise,” said the Virgin Group and Branson Center of Entrepreneurship founder.

Forum delegates also heard from North American investors, Jonathan Blue and Jay Yeo, who both touted their positive investment experiences, in the Caribbean region even as Jean Arnell, vice president of the French Saint Martin Chamber of Commerce, told the audience that the Caribbean island is open for business.

“With more than a dozen ministers of government, including a premier and a chief minister, as well as dozens of private sector attendees from investment firms in attendance, what we have proven is that the Invest Caribbean Now forum, while only in its second year, is simply THE investment event of the Caribbean,” said Felicia Persaud, CEO of Hard Beat Communications and convener of Invest Caribbean Now, in summing up the conclusion of the June6th sold out power forum.

The forum was moderated by W. Dave Dowrich, Vice President of Risk and Capital Markets in the Financial Institutions Group at Goldman Sachs, who observed that “too long the Caribbean has been simply known as a play ground and great for partying but when it comes to the serious business of investment – not so much so.”

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