Thursday, April 26, 2012
Thursday, April 26, 2012
SAN JUAN (April 26/11) – Puerto Rico–Caribbean tourism officials cautioned against regional governments heavily taxing the sector, as many head into new budgetary cycles.
The warning came during the 16th annual Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Investment Conference (CHTIC), a forum which provides delegates with the latest statistics, analysis, predictions and projections for the Caribbean’s tourism industry.
Caribbean tourism officials on stage at the 16th annual Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Investment Conference being held April 24-26 at the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel and Casino in San Juan. From left to right: Josef Forstmayr, president of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association; Ricky Skerritt, Minister of Tourism of St Kitts and chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO); and Luis Rivera Marin, executive director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company.
“We hear of new policies that taxes not only the private sector, but also our visitors directly,” said Josef Forstmayr (left), president of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association. “These masquerade under such names as airport improvement taxes, tourism enhancement fees, and by far the worst of all, the UK’s Airline Passenger Duty (APD).”
According to Forstmayr, increased taxation is regressive, resulting in less revenue for the hotel and attraction sector. The CHTA president urged governments to make a “serious effort” to review their taxation policies on the tourism industry.
“It is now time to remove or reduce all excessive consumption taxes,” said Forstmayr. “Our industry is based on competitive pricing. Our visitors will simply choose other destinations.”
Research shows that North American travellers still look to the Caribbean as a major vacation destination.
However, these potential tourists are in search of value, added Ricky Skerritt (right), Minister of Tourism for St Kitts and the chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO).
Social media, he said, has created product analysts and journalists out of every potential visitor.
Consequently, regional tourism officials have to work harder and do more with less.
“That is why, over the last 14 months or so, we have revitalized the Caribbean Tourism Development Company (CTDC) and that is why we are now putting our joint efforts between the Caribbean Hotel Tourism Association and the CTO into making the CTDC a reliable force in the marketplace by the second half of this year,” he said.
Travel and tourism directly and indirectly employs 2.2 million people in the Caribbean region, approximately one in every eight jobs. Moreover, travel and tourism accounts for 14.2 per cent of the Caribbean’s economic activity, accounting for the highest percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) of any region in the world.
Still, tourism officials are fully cognizant that these are challenging times.
According to Luis Rivera Marin (left), executive director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company, the goal is to entice travellers to the region to visit more than one destination.
Hugh Riley, the CTO’s secretary general, said that the region must play to its strengths to remain competitive.
“The Caribbean is accustomed to being in a position where we have to do a great deal with very little financial resources. We are never going to be the most resource rich region in the world, but there is no region that is more resourceful,” he said. “We can compete in a business that is so fiercely competitive.”
CHTIC is organized by the CHTA and the CTO. It attracts government officials, investment promotion agencies, hoteliers, investors, lenders, construction companies, financial organizations, real estate/mortgage intermediaries, tourism industry officials and other tourism entities.
The event first took place 16 years ago in Nassau, The Bahamas.
“There are others who have come along and are holding investment conferences [but] this is the only true Caribbean investment conference that is also held in the Caribbean,” says Alec Sanguinetti (right), chief executive officer and director general of the CHTA. “We have delegates registered for the event from 20 Caribbean countries, both from the public and private sector. We also have four countries from outside the Caribbean, which shows the global reach of this investment conference.”
There are 189 delegates registered with one Chief Minister and five Ministers of Tourism attending. The two-day conference being held at the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel and Casino wraps up today.