Incoming chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO), Obie Wilchcombe of the Bahamas, has said that regional tourism officials remain concerned about a number of issues, despite encouraging news that visitor arrivals are up.
The latest statistics show that the region is on course to exceed 30 million visitors for 2016. However, as stakeholders ended two-days of talks at the Hilton Barbados Resort, Whilchcombe said there are other areas that need urgent attention.
“The troubled areas for the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, an area that we have to look into and fully comprehend, is whilst we’re seeing airlift growth, we’re seeing a decline in room occupancy and average room rates, and that concerns us. So we believe that it has something to do with increased stock.
“We also believe it might have something to do with shared occupancy accommodations. So we have to look at what is causing this particular peculiar circumstance,” Wilchcombe said.
He added that the Zika virus and its impact on travel to the Caribbean is another source of concern.
“As you know the Bahamas is just next door to Florida and just this past week we saw a story of how the Zika virus is affecting the travelling public, it’s affecting the economy of Florida. So we in the region have to pay close attention,” he said.
The Bahamian Tourism Minister, who succeeded his local counterpart Richard Sealy as CTO chairman, also pointed to the need for closer collaboration between the public and private sectors in order to grow the industry.
“The truth is we have to enhance our relationship. We believe that with the working private sector and public sector, we can develop a synergy that can cause growth to spiral to an all-time high. That will cause reduction in certain taxes … particularly when it comes to airlift and other areas,” he said.
Wilchcombe noted that those are some of the areas that he will focus on during his two-year tenure at the helm of the CTO.
Grenada has been selected to host the 2017 State of the Industry Conference.