Jamaica Observer:- President of the World Tourism and Travel Council (WTTC) David Scowsill has warned Caribbean governments of the need to take urgent action to remove aviation and visa restrictions, which he said were serving as major impediments to the development of the tourism sector.
Scowsill told the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) State of the Industry Conference (SOTIC), which ended here last weekend, that he remains “astonished” that after decades of discussion and negotiations among Caribbean States, intra-regional travel remains amazingly unproductive.
Warning that the Caribbean risks being left behind, the WTTC official observed that since then other countries and regions had moved towards common aviation and open skies agreements.
“Taxation is far too high in Caribbean aviation, it is not quite as high in the APD (air passenger duty) in the UK, or in relation to passenger insurance in Australia, but something has to be done in this region because these taxes are detrimental to GDP (gross domestic product) and people seeking to travel across the region.”
He said attention also needs to be paid to adopting a common visa system.
“It is fine when a system like this can be put in place in time for the world cricket, but disappointing when it disappears shortly afterwards.
“I therefore urge commissioners and tourism ministers to examine their visa processes carefully because some of the worries people have to deal with at their High Commissions abroad are frankly not good enough,” Scowsill said.
He called for the issue to be handled urgently by a group of “forward-thinking prime ministers” adding that the time was right for the Caribbean to put aside it’s specific island focus and focus on what’s going to be a competitive future.
Scowsill contends that the single biggest opportunity for the Caribbean aviation sector is to open up the region allowing for inter-island linkages through cultural exchanges and experiences.
He said that the opportunity for inter-island tourism is immense but people are only going to start travelling for leisure purposes if the whole aviation picture changes.
“The region’s aviation taxes need to be significantly reduced and the incentives created for airlines to operate these inter-island routes.
“Just think of other parts of the world where there are open skies agreements, there are low cost carriers connecting small communities with each other, where people travelled mainly on buses, ferries or trains.
“Exactly the same model can be created in the Caribbean, with the right legal structure created to encourage airlines to fly island hopping routes more frequently.
“Once this happens you will open the entire domestic travel and tourism market. That remains the single biggest opportunity for the domestic travel and tourism industry within the Caribbean,” the WTTC official said.