St. Kitts and Nevis Tourism Minister and CTO Chairman Skerritt leads dialogue in Europe at annual Caribbean Tourism Summit

Caribbean Tourism Chairman and St. Kitts and Nevis’ Minister of Tourism and International Transport, Sen. the Hon. Richard “Ricky” Skerritt at the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO)

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, MARCH 14TH 2011 (CUOPM) – The Caribbean is now the most tourism dependent region in the world, and its future development relies to a significant extent on Tourism and its myriad economic, social and environmental linkages.

So said Chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO), St. Kitts and Nevis’ Minister of Tourism and International Transport, Sen. the Hon. Rickard “Ricky” Skerritt at the Annual Caribbean Tourism Summit in Brussels.

“To put this gathering in perspective, the Caribbean now has the thirteenth largest tourism industry globally in absolute size. It is first internationally in its relative contribution to the national economy; and is tenth globally in its contribution to long term national growth. Moreover, it is the biggest employer in our region after the public sector. It is also the largest single contributor to the Gross Domestic Product, and was worth in 2010 some US$39.4 billion. This was based on an estimated Caribbean travel and tourism demand of US$55.4 billion, minus imported goods and services spending abroad, of US$16.0 billion,” Minister Skerritt told the opening ceremony.

He said the purpose of Caribbean ministers and tourism officials from the private and public sectors “is to begin what we hope will be a lasting dialogue about this critical primary industry and in doing so change some of the negative perceptions about tourism and our region that might exist.”

“We want to emphasise the opportunities and challenges that flow from tourism-led development and find new ways to ensure, with your help, that our industry touches every aspect of Caribbean life in ways that bring genuine sustainable economic growth to our people and communities,” said the CTO Chairman.

“Much has been said in this type of forum in the past by Caribbean leaders about the end of preferential market access and the problems caused to the sugar and banana industries. But that is not what we are here to talk about today. We are here because we believe that, with your help, there are important opportunities ahead for Caribbean tourism and its many allied services,” said Minister Skerritt, who also noted that across the Caribbean similar structural changes are also occurring, “but what we have not seen is Europe or our other international partners placing enough emphasis on support for the development potential of Caribbean tourism, and its ability to create jobs and change human lives for the better.”

He said the Brussels meetings provide the opportunity to consider a wide range of tourism related issues that will enable the Caribbean delegation understand better the European policy towards the Caribbean and how the strategic partnership that is now envisaged might relate to our sector.

“We also want to establish how a closer policy dialogue on tourism and related development issues might be established with Europe’s Member States, the European Commission and the European Parliament, and in this context identify how the Tourism chapter in the EPA is to be made operational and support made available for both the public and private sector. We especially want to ensure that Tourism becomes deeply embedded in all future EU/Caribbean strategic planning,” said Minister Skerritt, who hoped that the meeting will lead to an ongoing dialogue with multilateral and bilateral funding agencies to support tourism development finance and encourage private investment.

“And we want to understand the current European approaches to aviation taxation, security, the environment, carbon trading and clean energy in the context of a future Caribbean tourism policy. Perhaps this is an ambitious hope, but it is a hope that speaks to the very survival of our Caribbean economies and hope for our Caribbean people,” said the CTO official.

Mr. Skerritt said he was pleased to have representatives of the regional private sector including both the President and Director General of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association to help to make the case in Europe.

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