By F. Martin
TTC Service.-One of the strongest commercial hurricanes that could face the Caribbean in the immediate future is the one that potentially provokes the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union (EU).
The region has already begun to face the storm. Caribbean tourism officials have visited Brussels last week for talks, as the United Kingdom gets ready to announce a date for leaving the 28-member bloc.
The Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) headed by its Secretary General, Hugh Riley, met with senior parliamentarians, the European Commission, the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM) ambassadors, and other key stakeholders. The meetings included the president of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) Karolin Troubetzkoy. According to an official statement after the visit, the Caribbean representatives wanted “a better understanding of how Britain’s decision to leave the EU would impact the Caribbean tourism industry”.
“We recognize that while the Caribbean tourism sector has had its successes – and we are certainly proud to celebrate those successes – we are also aware of the challenges which continue to stymie our growth,” Riley said to the Jamaica Observer paper.
“We are aware that we have friends and willing partners in Europe who share our conviction that the future success of tourism in the Caribbean is key to creating new jobs, growth and prosperity in the region and we look forward to continuing to build on the already strong relationships we have in the UK, France, Spain, the Netherlands and with the EU institutions,” he added.
The Jamaica Observer added that the Caribbean representatives discussed with the European Commission’s Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development (DG DEVCO) initiatives to support environmentally sustainable tourism within local communities, along with training and education, including new possible partnerships for tourism training initiatives.
The Caribbean islands are showing a visible official maturity in the face of additional tensions that could face not only because of the separation of the UK from the EU. Also on the way are obstacles such as the aftermath of global warming and the uncertainty about the political path of the new US government led by Donald Trump. For example two weeks ago several meetings took place in Havana, where essential topics such as tourism, trade, transport and climate change.
The meetings included the First Cooperation Conference of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS), attended by invited guests from international organizations and countries that due to their capacity can contribute to the development of the mechanism. The Conference was followed by the XXII Meeting of the Council of Ministers of the Caribbean Association, and finally the V Caricom-Cuba Ministerial Meeting that examined the relations between Havana and the regional bloc.
According to observers the ACS meeting was part of the revitalization process of the organization, which emerged in 1994 to promote consultation, cooperation and joint action among the Caribbean territories.
Tourism is a vital sector common to the Caribbean islands, said CARICOM Heads of Government in the communiqué that followed a recent inter-sessional meeting in Georgetown, Guyana.
Now the industry is it seems, about to be given the attention it deserves at a pan-Caribbean level. At the February 16-17 meeting, detailed proposals aimed at advancing a regional tourism agenda in a strategic way, were presented by CTO’s Director General, Hugh Riley based on a paper jointly developed by CTO and CHTA.
As the Caribbean nations have demonstrated, tourism industry can quickly create employment, generate tax revenues and foreign exchange, and stimulate indigenous entrepreneurial activity.