In a stunning development, Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, secretary general of the Caribbean Tourism Organization, stepped down from that post and returned to the Bahamas to assume the role as minister of tourism and aviation, effective July 7.

He had served as the Bahamas' director general of tourism from 1994 to 2005 before being named to head CTO, succeeding Jean Holder, who had held the position for 20 years.

Vanderpool-Wallace's departure from CTO caught many in the industry by surprise. Ten days ago, he was front and center at the first Caribbean Tourism Summit in Washington, calling for unity and partnership between the private and public sectors.

Last week, he attended the 29th Heads of Government Conference of the Caribbean Community in Antigua as the CTO delegate.

An interim CTO secretary general will be named, and a search committee will be charged with finding his successor.

Vanderpool-Wallace's departure comes as the Caribbean region is grappling with critical issues, including an economic downturn in the U.S., spiraling fuel costs and reduced air service to the region.

His Bahamas appointment is part of a major cabinet reshuffling by Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham.

Neko Grant, who had served in the tourism post since May 2007, will assume responsibility for public works and transport.

"I have decided to make certain changes that will contribute to even more effective governance over the months and years ahead," Ingraham said.

The prime minister also plans to appoint Vanderpool-Wallace to the Bahamian Senate.

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