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Tourism numbers improving

Hugh Riley, Secretary General, Caribbean Tourism Organisation

I think it’s fair to say that 2012 has been both an exciting and a challenging year for the Caribbean tourism industry. Visitor arrivals to the region continued to rise, fuelled by improvements in the US and Canadian markets. Yet, we continued to face challenges in Europe, particularly the UK market from which the numbers have been falling. Visitor spending has also been sluggish.

The latest figures from our research department reveal a five per cent rise in arrivals overall. There are clear signs that our performance in the US ?- our region’s main source market – is improving, with arrival numbers up by 5.3 per cent. The Canadian market has also continued to grow, with total arrivals from the Great White North matching the US at 5.3 per cent.

The UK, on the other hand, has recorded a decline of over six per cent. The Summer Olympics did have some effect, leading to marginal growth in the UK economy, which is still struggling to rebound. Another factor we can’t ignore is the severe impact that the unfair and discriminatory Air Passenger Duty is having on our region’s performance in the British market.

Much to the disappointment and frustration of the Caribbean, this crippling tax is due to rise even further in April 2013 while the discriminatory aspect of the distance “banding” system remains. A family of four visiting the Caribbean and flying in economy will be expected to fork out 332 pounds for APD – and double that amount for a few extra inches of leg room if they fly in any class above economy.

On the contrary, that same family would pay less APD to fly to US destinations that are far further away from London than any Caribbean country. This is an issue the CTO and its member countries and partners will continue to fight.

Despite the many challenges which the Caribbean faced, we got through 2012 with our chins up and our resolve unfazed. Many of our member-countries have scored major successes regionally and internationally, often parlaying those wins to the benefit of their tourism sector.

We at the CTO have been energised by our new vision “To position the Caribbean as the most desirable, year round, warm weather destination by 2017” and the recently elected CTO chairman, Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty has begun her two-year tenure with a pledge to refocus attention on urgent and essential areas including aviation. She immediately established an Aviation Task Force to develop solutions to the region’s aviation problems, including the issue of taxation.

As we prepare to enter 2013, we look forward to working more closely with all of members and partners. As the international agency that leads tourism development in the Caribbean, we know there are plenty of opportunities to improve the quality and the value of the services we provide. We take our responsibility seriously and will use every resource available to us to improve the quality of life of all Caribbean people through tourism.

On behalf of the chairman, the Hon. Beverly Nicholson-Doty, the Council of Ministers and Commissioners of Tourism, the Board of Directors, the diverse membership and staff of the CTO I wish you and yours a happy and blessed Christmas and a safe, peaceful and prosperous New Year.

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