Allen Chastanet, chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organization, minced no words in his keynote address at last month's Caribbean Hospitality and Tourism Conference in Miami.

"It's amazing to me that we keep on rejecting excellence," Chastanet said. "We find every excuse to maintain the old and are not willing to change with the new. We keep comforting ourselves with all the excuses we can find as to why we are not successful -- the U.S. economy is down, there is lack of adequate airlift, all those things."

Chastanet mentioned a recent example of failure in the Caribbean.

"The West Indies Cricket Board managed to convince our governments to spend $750 million to host World Cup Cricket, and we still cannot raise $4 million a year to do regional marketing," he commented.

Then Chastanet spoke about some good news. The tourism industry is projected to grow at an annual rate of 4.5% over the next 10 years. Big investments are being made in the Caribbean. New products and brands are being introduced.

"We still have time to win the race, but we need to start measuring our success not based on the arrivals of our neighboring islands but on what our potential is," he said.

He asked delegates to look at what the Caribbean "could be, not what it is."

"Mexico averages 47 million U.S. arrivals a year," said Chastanet. "The Caribbean, including Cozumel and Cancun, has 11 million a year. The Caribbean diaspora numbers more than 11 million West Indians living abroad, readily available, but how many of us have a consistent campaign to reach out to them?"

He urged delegates to "take down the walls of our own insecurity, understand the power of the Caribbean brand and aspire to the greatness that the region can have."

To contact reporter Gay Nagle Myers, send e-mail to [email protected].

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