Jean Holder, the first secretary general of the Caribbean Tourism Organization and the man credited as father of the region's tourism development, died in Barbados on Jan. 25. He was 85.

Holder spent more than 30 years of his professional life leading the development and expansion of the Caribbean tourism sector during its formative years. 

Obituary: Caribbean tourism pioneer Jean Holder

In 1974 he was hired to head the newly established Caribbean Tourism Research and Development Centre, which in 1989 merged with the Caribbean Tourism Association to form the present-day Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO).

Holder was at CTO's helm as secretary general until 2004 and is credited with changing the course of Caribbean tourism.

After retiring from the CTO, Holder served as chairman of Caribbean regional carrier LIAT until late 2019.

The CTO council of ministers and commissioners of tourism, its board of directors, allied members and staff mourn his loss and said in a statement that "he will be missed, but the mark he has made on this region will be long remembered." 

Prime minister of Barbados Mia Amor Mottley cited Holder's leadership and years of service to the region. "He led the Caribbean Tourism Organization, a most important institution that breathed life into the Caribbean tourism product that today makes the region the world's most recognized tourism destination."

"Barbados and the region will continue to owe this soft-spoken, always confident, forever reassuring son of the Caribbean Sea a debt of gratitude," Mottley said.

Holder is survived by daughters Janet and Caroline. His wife Norma died in 2016.

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