My Colleague Prime Ministers, Heads of delegations, Secretary General Ambassador LaRocque, Ministers of Tourism, other distinguished delegates, welcome to this our First Meeting of the Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee on Tourism.
The COVID-19 pandemic is an existential threat to the tourism industry of CARICOM.
Fiscal revenues from the tourism industry have declined precipitously. The direct and indirect employment related to the industry are down.
The linkages which we painstakingly forged between the tourism industry and other sectors and industries of our economies have been severely disrupted.
While we previously acknowledged that our diversity requires nationally- nuanced policies and strategies, we have reached a point where these approaches may be liabilities to our respective tourism industries.
I therefore reflect on the decision which we took at our Forty-First Meeting of the Conference to have a Joint Tourism Policy for CARICOM.
I recognize that developing a national tourism policy to address national goals in a fast-changing environment is challenging.
Moreover, I also recognize that developing a regional CARICOM policy to take us out of the current pandemic environment is daunting.
I speak from the reality of governing an archipelago of over 700 islands and quays scattered across 100,000 square miles of ocean, the microcosm of CARICOM.
The Joint Tourism Policy and its accompanying strategy for CARICOM are two critical tools that have to be added to our response arsenal to the path of survival, recovery and sustainable development.
I wish to thank the members of the Interim Tourism Working Group for developing the Draft Framework for the Development of a Joint Tourism Policy for CARICOM, with short term policy recommendations and a long term framework.
The latter establishes an excellent platform for continued discussions and work by our technical teams. The need for a Joint Tourism Policy is urgent, and it will only be as good as it is implementable.
The Vision: “CARICOM Tourism that is sustainable, viable, of high quality, climate smart, resilient and promotes empowerment and inclusiveness” is entirely what we need at this time to take us forward.
I like the idea of a policy which is operationalized by a two-pronged strategy aimed at addressing the urgent need to stimulate the recovery of the tourism industry over the coming months, while building on efforts already established to address the industry’s long-term growth, inclusiveness and sustainability. In this regard, I urge that serious consideration be given to the proposed six priority policy areas to be addressed over the next two-year period.
Strengthening the collaboration mechanism with the private sector, including labour, will be critical to the success of this initiative. And there is great merit in building on previous marketing initiatives of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association, such as “The Rhythm Never Stops”, as we seek to recapture clientele in those source markets that are expected to be soon opened.
In this regard, reaching an understanding on the financing mechanism for marketing and funding the general development of the sector is a necessity, thought I am aware it will not be easy given the current regional and global economic and fiscal realities.
I also very much like the idea of monitoring the environment every six months, given the fluid environment in which we are operating. We may not get it fully right in the beginning, but we have to make the right first step and then adjust as necessary.
I therefore look forward to this meeting reaching consensus on the Draft Framework for the Development of a Joint Tourism Policy for CARICOM which can be submitted to the Thirty-Second Inter-Sessional Meeting of Heads, scheduled for next week -23-24 February 2021, so that it may guide our work ahead.
I thank you.