LIAT CEO calls for cooperation between travel and tourism stakeholders

PHILLIPSBURG, St. Maarten, September 16, 2011 – Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of regional airline LIAT Mr. Brian Challenger has called for more cooperation among players in the region’s travel and tourism sectors to help resolve the main constraints faced by air travelers.

Mr. Challenger made the call today during a presentation at the inaugural three-day Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) State of the Industry Conference which opened in St. Maarten on September 15. Pointing out that cooperation is key to “overcoming the hurdles and making intra-Caribbean travel work” the LIAT CEO said that the CTO has a critical role to play in this regard. He reiterated his call for the CTO to facilitate dialogue and partnership between all tourism stakeholders including airlines, hotels, airports and tourism authorities.

The LIAT official said hurdles to regional travel include economic conditions, preferences for extra-regional travel, regulatory barriers, technical challenges and the cost of regional travel. On the issue of the high cost of air travel Mr. Challenger noted that there were several factors contributing to this. These include high operating costs such as fuel, labour, maintenance, capital costs, regulatory costs, taxation and government charges; as well as the small and fragmented regional markets.

In presenting his vision for the future of aviation in the region Mr. Challenger said there was a need to build a more attractive and competitive Caribbean product pointing to the unique Caribbean festivals and diverse shopping attractions. He said LIAT’s role in intra-Caribbean travel cannot be overemphasized noting that the island-hopping carrier flies approximately 120 sectors daily moving some 950,000 passengers annually. Mr. Challenger was part of a panel discussion which included the executives of other airlines in the region.

The discussion, which also included input from the attendees, was moderated by well-known Caribbean journalist, Tony Fraser.

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