Keep politics out of tourism and run the sector like a business.
Chief Executive Officer of the Apple Leisure Group, Alex Zozaya issued the challenge to tourism leaders as he gave a frank assessment of the region’s bread and butter industry at the State of the Industry Conference (SOTIC) underway in St Thomas, US Virgin Islands where Barbados was elected to chair the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO).
According to Zozaya, who heads one of the world’s largest vacation businesses, regional economies would be a lot stronger if the sector was managed properly.
“Be more pragmatic, more technical, use best practices and run your region like a business. Once you do so it will result in prosperity for your people,” he said.
Zozaya also knocked the high taxes imposed on the sector, warning that Governments were reaping additional revenue with one hand and losing with the other.
“They are seeking to make more income, so they go increasing prices. When you apply additional taxes you continue to increase the price of your product and customers no longer come, but go to the shop next door,” he cautioned.
He also advised that the revenue derived from taxes should be re-invested in tourism to develop the product.
Speaking on the theme, Conceiving and Realising a Vision, Zozaya also gave advice on the marketing of the tourism product, cautioning officials on the manner in which individual islands are promoted.
He said authenticity is a must.
“You cannot promote your island as being friendly but the moment the visitor arrives at the airport, he has an issue with a rude immigration officer; this has a reflection on the whole experience. Neither can you promote your destination as the cleanest or most natural place on earth if it’s not,” the business mogul warned.
“Get out of the comfort zone. People are no longer coming to you because you are pretty. That’s not good enough anymore as there are far more beautiful destinations in the world.”