A one-day session on tourism has been inserted into the agenda of the 29th meeting of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) Heads of Government, set for July 3 to 5 on Antigua.
Tourism will become a permanent topic on all future Caricom agendas, according to government officials.
In putting tourism on the Caricom agenda for the first time, Hubert Ingraham, prime minister of the Bahamas and chairman of the Conference of Caricom Heads of Goverment, cited the economic downturn in the U.S. and the factors affecting travel to the Caribbean, including high fuel prices, the subprime mortgage crisis, the related slump in the U.S. housing market and increased air fares.
Ingraham warned that the Caribbean's tourism sector is stalling, as world travel and tourism grew 7% in 2007 while Caribbean growth hovered at 2.5%, according to a study by the World Travel and Tourism Council. He called for more focused efforts in product development, service standards, aviation, immigration and customs policies, eco-tourism, a regional marketing campaign and sustainable-tourism promotion and development.
Peter Odle, president of the Caribbean Hotel Association, said that the private sector in the Caribbean "is invigorated to hear Caricom's words of support and encouragement for the tourism industry."
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