Thursday, February 20, 2014
Thursday, February 20, 2014
Hugh Riley, Secretary General, Caribbean Tourism Organization speaks at the Small Island Developing States Conference on 19 Feb 2014. (Photo Harry Cutting/©Dupuch)
In 2013 the Caribbean welcomed over 25 million visitors and this number is expected to climb to 33 million by 2015, according to figures from the United Nations World Tourism Organization.
“In the midst of the hardships of 2013, the Caribbean passed that 25 million person mark and was able to welcome more visitors to the region than ever before in our history,” said Hugh Riley, secretary general of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), quoting the figures during his address at the Small Island Developing States conference in Nassau yesterday.
Riley said the CTO was focused on promoting the region as a year-round choice to avoid any slumps during the traditional off-peak seasons.
“It is very important for us all to accept the vision of Caribbean tourism, which is to position the Caribbean as the most desirable year-round, warm weather destination,” he said, before urging attendees to work together to market the destination as a whole. “The most important part of that vision is that word ‘destination’. We have to buy into the fact that we are one. Unity is strength. We are one sea, one voice and one Caribbean.”
Taleb Rifai, Secretary General, United Nations World Tourism Organization speaks at the the Small Island Developing States Conference on 19 Feb 2014. (Photo Harry Cutting/©Dupuch)
Taleb Rifai, secretary general of the United Nations World Tourism Organization also addressed the conference and agreed that the Caribbean climate is a major draw for tourists, but urged leaders in the region to supplement this with aspects unique to their individual countries saying: “We know the sun and sea as a product, yet the depth of the culture and the diversity of the landscape should be utilized.”
“The global landscape is changing and shifting so quickly,” continued Rifai. “Two things are shaping our world in unrecognizable ways—the IT communication revolution and the travel revolution. The travellers of today are more intelligent, more educated and more demanding.”
Around 9 per cent of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) is generated by travel and tourism. Rifai said that in order for the Caribbean to maximize its share of this profitable market, five key issues need to be addressed. These are how to distribute the benefits down through the value chain, connectivity and airlift, climate change concerns, regional co-operation and diversifying the tourism product.
The two-day SIDS event is being held at the Melia Resort on Cable Beach and includes panel discussions, ministerial meetings and island tours for international delegates. Sponsors of the event include the Inter-American Development Bank, The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism and the United Nations World Tourism Organization.