SAN JUAN -- The need for a single airspace and a common civil aviation regime culminated in the creation of the San Juan Accord, according to Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, secretary general of the Caribbean Tourism Organization.

"A single Caribbean airspace is what we envision with many more efficient hubs to enable travelers to move around the region with ease on a two- or three-island vacation in a single trip," Vanderpool-Wallace said at the close of the 30th annual Caribbean Tourism Conference here.

The secretary general pointed out that the creation of the San Juan Accord, so named because it came out of the CTC which was held in San Juan, resulted from intense discussions involving ministers of tourism, CTO's board of directors, civil aviation and regional tourism and aviation officials to restructure the regional air transport sector to offer the best prospects for safe, secure and sustainable airlift in the Caribbean.

Although numerous details remain to be worked out, including the coordination of different airspaces that now exist within the Caribbean, Vanderpool-Wallace described the action "as the most significant achievement to come out of this conference and one that will enable the Caribbean as a whole to grow our business and make moving around the region much easier for our visitors."

Another facet of the air transportation issue in the Caribbean will be explorations of a single entry visa for visitors who are now required to have entry visas for many individual countries in the region.

The single visa was used with success by nine Caribbean countries during the Cricket World Cup tournament last spring.

Other highlights of the conference:

" The CTO officially launched its new Web site at www.caribbeantravel.com (a similar site aimed at the U.K. and European markets will debut before the end of the year at www.caribbean.co.uk).

There are plans to launch the site in other languages, including a "video-heavy" site for the Chinese market, according to Vanderpool-Wallace.

The new site contains a consumer booking engine for air and hotel reservations, but has links pointing consumers to Caribbean Travel Specialists, or travel agents specializing in Caribbean travel.

Also on the site are links to each individual country's official Web site as well as listings of hotels, attractions, activities, events and the currency of each country.

" According to Vanderpool-Wallace, the CTO is eyeing the Chinese market as a potentially viable source of new travelers for the Caribbean and plans to open an office in Beijing with a CTO representative before the Beijing Olympics next July.

"We hope to showcase the Caribbean during the Olympics by profiling Caribbean athletes on mass media TV and other outlets," Vanderpool-Wallace said.

" In addition, the CTO plans to establish a Caribbean Sustainable Fund to tackle the issue of climate change and sustainability.

"Such subjects are tasks too large for individual countries to tackle but the region as a whole is encouraged by the possibility of accomplishing this under one Caribbean zone," the secretary general said.

Once established, individuals will be able to make donations and contributions to the fund via a link on the new Web site.

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

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