Flat tourism numbers concern Caribbean hoteliers

Tourism to the Caribbean remained flat over the last two years, growing by 1% in 2006 and by less than 1% (.08%) in 2007, according to Alec Sanguinetti, chairman and CEO of the Caribbean Hotel Association.

In a post-conference wrap-up report at CHA's annual Caribbean Marketplace, held Jan. 13 to 15 at Atlantis, Paradise Island in the Bahamas, Sanguinetti reported that "in two years [2006 and 2007], Caribbean growth was only 1% while world tourism grew 7%, signaling that something is wrong with tourism in the Caribbean."

Although the CHA "cannot impact on the price of oil, the housing situation in the U.S. and currency rates, we can impact on the state of aviation within the Caribbean and the standard of service," Sanguinetti said.

He recommended that the Caribbean region put its house in order to be able to complete globally. "The future looks bright for us and it has great potential," Sanguinetti said, citing as an example Ritz-Carlton's investment of "billions, not millions, in the region. We must ensure that the Caribbean is as competitive as possible."

Aviation within the Caribbean remains a "serious challenge," the CHA head said. "Fares coming to the Caribbean are among the highest in the world, and intra-Caribbean travel is way down. This issue must be addressed before we see another summer season like had in 2007."

CHA's new advocacy program will release its first report in February on the topic of aviation. CHA officials hope that the report, and subsequent reports issued by the Advocacy Committee, will influence government leaders to address issues critical to the region.

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

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