CANCUN, Mexico -- It was no surprise that technology and the
Internet dominated the annual Caribbean Hotel Industry Conference,
hosted by the Caribbean Hotel Association (CHA) last month here.
In general sessions, roundtable debates and in workshops, talks
centered on distribution channels, search engines and Web-based
Global competition, service standards, environmental issues and
marketing strategies also were debated and discussed.
In a speech widely praised by conference delegates as "long
overdue and to the point," Ed Malone, outgoing CHA president,
warned that technological developments have turned the tourism
industry "into a global fully connected destination in which many
regions and countries now challenge the past dominance of the
Caribbean as the leading warm weather destination."
Although Malone cited bureaucratic incompetence, lack of
professional tourism management and the "ongoing soap opera of
island politics" for the area's lack of progress in tourism
development and profitability, he also chided the private sector
for its failure to effect substantial changes in governmental
attitudes and policies.
He called on the industry as a whole -- hotels, governments "and
yes, even the cruise lines" -- to work together to not only
recognize tourism "as the lifeblood for the economic future of this
region," but also to place tourism as the highest priority on all
Malone pushed for governments to convene a public/private-sector
summit to reignite a Caribbean regional marketing campaign, create
uniform standards and branding, remove visa restrictions, enhance
intra-Caribbean transportation, standardize entry and departure
documentation and establish a regional cruise tourism policy and
He had harsh words for governments that ignored cruise lines as
a source of tax revenues.
"While our tax structures change and in many cases increase,
cruise lines continue to escape similar tax adjustments, simply
because the politicians are scared that the lines will sail off at
the expense of votes in an upcoming election," he said.
Both Malone and Ralph Taylor, CHA's new president, called for an
end to the U.S. ban on Cuba trade.
"We are not afraid of an open tourism market in Cuba and would
welcome the hoteliers of Cuba into CHA without the restraints now
imposed on them by the embargo," Malone said.
Taylor noted that the embargo "has not stopped economics. We
need to support Cuba in its fight for real and open trade."