NEW YORK -- It's official. Jean Holder, secretary general of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) since its inception in 1989, will retire Dec. 31.

Holder's actual leave-taking will be in mid-September, due to accrued vacation leave.

Holder served as the first executive director of the Caribbean Tourism Research and Development Centre until it merged with the Caribbean Tourism Association in 1989, becoming the CTO.

At a meeting on June 3 during Caribbean Week in New York, CTO established a search committee to begin the process of selecting a new secretary general.

The committee members include the tourism ministers of Jamaica (chair), the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Bahamas, Antigua, St. Lucia, two members of the Directors of Tourism Association, an Allied Members representative, the president of the CTO Foundation and a delegate representing the CTO chapters.

Obie Wilchcombe, CTO chairman and minister of tourism for the Bahamas, said the committee "will formulate criteria for the selection process. Our expectation is that we will have several nominees within the next few months and will name the new secretary general at the Caribbean Tourism Conference at the Wyndham Aruba [being held] Oct. 15 to 20."

In other CTO news:

• The ministers endorsed a committee of representatives from CTO, the Caribbean Hotel Association (CHA) and the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) to consult on policy issues and programs.

• Meanwhile, the CTO, the CHA and the FCCA shelved plans to implement a proposal made last fall for a $20 head tax on cruise passengers, "due to problems regarding legality and compliance," according to Wilchcombe. The proposal, which caused an uproar at the time, was intended to help finance a sustainable fund for Caribbean tourism development.

• Rawle Brancker, chairman of the board of directors of the 9th Cricket World Cup 2007, said preparations were underway for the two-month, 51-match event that he described "as the biggest event ever to be hosted in the Caribbean."

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

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