Money needed to market region

Barbados Nation
September 29, 1999

Tourism is an industry thatís vital to the economic well- being of almost every country in the Caribbean. The Caribbean attracts about 25 million visitors a year, more than two-thirds of whom come from North America and Europe.

In 1996, visitors spent more than $13.3 billion in the Caribbean. The industry provides employment for several thousands of people and in many cases it is the engine which drives the economy.

That is why there was so much disappointment last week when the regionís governments decided in the Dominican Republic to hold the line on the budget for a regional marketing programme.

When almost 1 000 government officials, private sector executives and travel agents from throughout the United States, Canada, Europe and the Caribbean attended the 23rd annual conference of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, a key talking point was the regional marketing programme.

Essentially, the government representatives opted to keep the budget at $2 million, instead of the $12 million CTO felt was needed to market the Caribbean effectively in North America and Europe as a multi-destination region.

It was an unfortunate decision, since there is intense competition in the marketplace.

If the region is to get a larger slice of the tourism pie, then it must move aggressively to highlight its attractions, facilities and pleasures. That will cost more money.

It makes good business sense, therefore, to try to attract more tourists every year to the region. But to achieve that goal, the region would have to tell its story in every nook and cranny in North America and Europe.

To keep pace, the region must expand its marketing effort. It may not have the $12 million CTO was asking for, but the countries can certainly afford more than the $2 million they are setting aside.

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