Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer
Caribbean governments are being criticised for lack of political will to fast-track the regional marketing programme, while the region struggles as a result of slow growth, unpredictable airlift and onerous taxation.
Beverly Nicholson-Doty, chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO), hit out at Caribbean leaders for their gift of gab but lack of action.
"We are great debators," she declared. "We're big on lyrics, but slow on implementation," said the CTO chairman at the opening of the State of the Industry Conference (SOTIC), now on at the Madiana Palais des Congres Convention Centre in Martinique.
Nicholson-Doty, who is also the tourism commissioner for the US Virgin Islands, said 'One Sea, One Voice, One Caribbean' cannot be just a feel-good slogan or a tagline that is embraced at the various meetings annually, but must be the strategic reality of the region if it is to survive the aggressive marketing efforts of major destinations around the world.
US uses Caribbean concept
She said Brand USA had leapt ahead of the Caribbean, by promoting a concept that was initiated in the region.
"Yes, they implemented a concept we have been discussing for more than a decade," said the CTO chairman.
"Yes, this concept works. Brand USA has the data that shows the increased travel to the US since the programme's implementation. And we have the proof, that when we've implemented a cohesive marketing programme our visitor arrivals have increased. Unfortunately, we seem only to have the will to truly work together when there is a crisis."
Tourism remains the Caribbean's primary economic activity, making significant contributions to employment, agriculture, con-struction, health, education and the financial services.
A number of governments had made commitments to the 'One Caribbean' marketing programme but have not followed through.
"To our member governments, I ask of you to honour your commitments on time. This delay makes it more challenging to keep those members who have honoured their membership and marketing commitment to remain fully engaged," said Nicholson-Doty.
The global market is growing rapidly, she said, and the Caribbean could not afford to fall behind. "It is going to be so much more difficult and much more expensive, to catch up," she warned. "It's time to get so uncomfortable that we are forced to address the challenges of the most tourism-dependent region in the world."
SOTIC brings together decision makers from the public and private sectors, academics, government officials, hoteliers and travel professionals from the region and around the world. The conference ends today, October 18.