Caribbean leaders need to act more and talk less when it comes to improving regional connectivity.
This was one of the central themes on Caribbean Aviation Day last Wednesday, during the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO)/International Air Transport Association (IATA) conference held at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Grand Cayman.
Both IATA’s regional vice president for the Americas, Peter Cerdá and the newly elected CTO chairman, Caymanian Minister of Tourism Kenneth Bryan agreed that regional stakeholders had long been talking about making the Caribbean a multi-destination experience, and it was time for them to put their money where their mouths are.
“There has been a lot of going around in circles for too long and we have to meet with the right people, all the stakeholders, to ask all the hard questions and get the answers right away to decide whether we are going to do this or not,” Bryan told Barbados TODAY after the conference.
“I do recognise that many of the key stakeholders in this are politicians and we love to talk and that is just the reality. But we need to get a stronger analysis from the private sector on the practicalities of this and then we can analyse the data which gives us options and shows us what the effects would be – negative and positive – and make a call.
“We have to be more sufficient in our deliberations and dialogue to come to action points, regardless of what those action points may come to, even if that means – which I really don’t hope for – that multi-destination travel is not an option because of the complexities or individual viewpoints and systems. But, regardless, let us stop talking about it, let us get down to work and make the decision based on proper investigative analysis,” he added.
During his speech, Cerdá said that multi-destination travel was becoming more important as the cost of living was increasing globally and tourists were being extra mindful of how they spent their money.
“Selling and marketing the Caribbean as a multi-destination is becoming increasingly important, as inflationary pressures will have an adverse effect on the disposable incomes in some of the key source markets like Canada, Europe, and the USA,” he said. “When holidaymakers will be deciding where they will spend their valuable vacation days and budgets, being able to offer a variety of experiences will be key; and when they fly, today’s travellers are also looking for a seamless/simplified experience.”
Cerdá noted that a major challenge was the ability to generate demand that would support a sustainable increase in air connectivity.
He contended that “outdated, redundant and paper-based administrative and regulatory processes continue to negatively impact airline operations”. “Together with those in charge at government level, we need to urgently move into the digital age to provide a better customer experience and more efficient and secure airline operations.
“The good news is that many governments went down that path when it came to providing travel authorisations during the height of the pandemic. So we need to build on these experiences moving forward, rather than return to the old and inefficient ways,” he said.
Cerdá added that Caribbean leaders need to relook the successes of the Cricket World Cup 2007 which was held in the region and implement a similar model.
“The region had the perfect opportunity to revolutionise back in 2007 when it hosted the Cricket World Cup and created a single domestic space arrangement for the free movement of visitors. What will it take to stop the chatter and like the Nike slogan states ‘just do it’?” he questioned.