Europe and Caribbean Governments Agree On Key Points At Tourism Summit

St. Kitts - Nevis' Minister of Tourism - Richard Skeritt

St. Kitts – Nevis’ Minister of Tourism – Richard Skeritt
Photo By Erasmus Williams

Basseterre, St. Kitts – Nevis
March 17, 2011 (CUOPM)

Chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO), St. Kitts and Nevis’ Minister of Tourism and International Transport, Sen. the Hon. Richard “Rickey” Skerrit said there were six key conclusions reached at the first ever Caribbean Tourism Summit (CTS) which ended in Europe.

Caribbean tourism leaders and European Union (EU) officials indicating that there has been a greater understanding of each other’s concerns regarding the tourism sector issued a statement that the two sides discussed key subjects including ways to bridge the gap between policy intentions and practice; sources of funding for tourism development; tourism, aviation and taxation; tourism, education and social development; tourism and climate change; and how the tourism sector can benefit from the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the Caribbean and Europe.

According to Skerritt, the two sides agreed that “tourism is a significant sector for both the EU and the Caribbean and both regions have much to do to advance the policy discussion to ensure that tourism is given the attention and support that it deserves.”

He said there are various types of funding available in the EU and the EPA to support tourism-related initiatives and there is a need to establish modalities to work together to ensure that such funding is chanelled towards priority areas, including tourism “and that Caribbean public and private sectors must reach consensus on the priority areas.”

On the issues regarding aviation taxation and Emission Trading Schemes (ETS) Skerritt said they were identified as “real threats to Caribbean tourism.”

“Tourism is a major driver of economic and social development in the Caribbean and any negative impact on tourism will have far reaching consequences across the range of services that might be wholly unrelated to the sector but that rely in part on government funding through income from tourism,” he said.

The CTO Chairman noted that while the Caribbean has not been a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions it will suffer significantly from the impact of climate change, but the Caribbean can be a world leader in conservation and climate change initiatives.

“The Caribbean heard that the EPA contains specific commitments to the sustainable development of tourism.

“It seems that both CARIFORUM and the EU have some distance to go before these provisions can be finalized, but the hope is that this forum will have prompted a closer, more effective partnership that will achieve the goal of sustainable development of a thriving tourism economy,” Sen. Skerritt said.

Earlier, Geert Laporte, Deputy Director, European Centre for Development Policy Management, (ECDPM), agreed that regulatory barriers may hold back potential EPA benefits and that the European Development Fund (EDF) procedures are “complex and not very private sector friendly.”

The ECDPM, whose aim is to promote development and improve relations between the European Union and the countries in the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) region, noted that the way forward should include a widening of the economic base of the tourism industry by systematically strengthening linkages with other sectors.

Laporte said there is also need to address EU policy incoherence such as removing regulatory obstacles including the hassle to get EU visas and different policies in different EU member states.

The ECDPM official also said that Caribbean countries also need to address policy incoherence at their levels including giving greater priority to tourism.

He said also the private sector should also “put its act together” and thing “beyond donor money as a source of funding.”

Laporte said there is also need to agree on a “clear private sector role division in the design, programming management and implementation of tourism programmes on the basis of comparative advantage.”

Laporte also wants there to be a regular evaluation “the impact of EU policies and actions on Caribbean tourism.”

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