As Barbados and other Caribbean countries look to Africa to diversify their tourism business, Minister of Tourism and International Transport Senator Lisa Cummins has thrown out a challenge to the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) to establish a presence on the continent to better help its member states.
Cummins also outlined plans that are being developed for Barbados and some African countries to start moving people and cargo across the Atlantic.
Cummins, who is the outgoing Chairman of CTO, said she believed the time had come for that member organisation to set up a presence in Africa in an effort to better help Caribbean destinations gain access to African markets.
“I believe that the time has come for the CTO to take the opportunity to go as a first mover into the emerging markets and to represent our countries in those markets where we do not have an existing presence,” she proposed.
“I believe this is the time for the CTO and potentially African Exim Bank and the various tourist boards across Africa, to collaborate, and the CTO may need to have for the first time, an established office based in Africa, that focuses on white labelling the entire Caribbean,” said Cummins.
Taking part in a panel discussion on day two of the three-day AfriCaribbean Trade and Investment Forum 2022, which is being held at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, Senator Cummins noted that while several attempts have been made over the years without the desired results, she was satisfied that Barbados has now identified “points of reference” as the starting points to originate airlift.
“We have started conversations with [RwandAir], we have started conversations with Ethiopian Airways and we have had conversations with Etihad [Airways] as well and we have also had discussions with Kenya Airways,” said Cummins.
“We have already signed air services agreements with Kenya and Ghana. We should be signing further air services agreements with our partners as we move forward, and that in itself will then lend to negotiations with our commercial partners,” she said.
However, acknowledging that there would need to be demand for the airlines to travel between Africa and the Caribbean, Cummins said discussions around trade and investment were critical.
“I am expecting that the collaboration between our countries and our region in the coming weeks, coming out of this conference, and with the support of the Africa Export-Import Bank, will lend itself to a platform that will allow for trade to increase between our two regions, business travel to be increased and those things, when combined, will create the commercial case for airlift and for airlines to be able to say ‘we are willing to fly a 133-seater plane across the Atlantic from an African jurisdiction and potentially onwards to the United States so that we have a strong commercial basis on which we can proceed,” she explained.
Cummins was one of the panellists presenting under the theme One People, One Destiny: Uniting and Reimagining Our Future. The panel was examining the topic Improving Logistics Between Africa and the Caribbean for the Promotion of Tourism, Trade, Telecommunications and Investment, as airlink took centre-stage at the conference.
The Government senator explained that a CTO collaboration could then be followed by the sharing of experiences from “dedicated tourist boards” in an effort to “build that traffic and commercial case” to support airlift.
“That has to be a thrust that potentially we can agree on coming out of a forum such as this,” she said.
Acting Secretary General of the CTO Neil Walters said some Caribbean countries already have links with African nations as a result of investment, trade and culture-sharing, but said the CTO has always seen Africa as a region in which the entire Caribbean can expand.
“Of course, as a membership organisation it depends on the membership but we always put it out there as almost an untapped source of people to be able to fill in the gaps, not only in terms of the seasons but in terms of diversifying individual tourism sectors,” said Walters.
“That will continue. Of course, the pandemic put a little stymie to that but the intention is to go back to looking at what we still see as an emerging market and a market that has a significant potential for growth,” he added. (MM)