Caribbean tourism plan misses mark by mile - Nadir By Miranda La Rose
Stabroek News
July 11, 2002

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Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce, Manzoor Nadir, has said that Guyana cautiously supports the Caribbean Tourism Strategic Plan (CTSP), but the plan misses the mark by a mile and will sadly go down as another study with some repeated recommendations.

The tourism minister said that the plan was at best descriptive but failed to provide strategic vision and avoided the two main issues - political will and sustainable funding - in its delivery.

In addition, Nadir said, "The special nature of our (Guyana’s) tourism was not addressed," and while national plans were provided there were no consultations with the stakeholders.

Guyana’s proposals on the way forward with the CTSP, Nadir said, will be to get countries to sign on to an instrument; that a survey be conducted among Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) countries to determine their level of support, and if less than half of CTO member countries do not support the idea, CARICOM should stop wasting time and abandon it.

The CTSP was contained in a report the CTO and the Caribbean Hotels Association (CHA) presented to the CARICOM Heads of Government at their just-concluded conference in Georgetown.

The heads have broadly accepted the plan which included the establishment of a Sustainable Tourism Development Fund but gave member states until month-end to submit any proposal for refinement after which the plan will be published.

Following the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11 last year and the subsequent steep decline in the tourism industry in the region, the heads met at a special summit in the Bahamas last November and decided on the plan for the ‘repositioning’ of the industry in the 21st century with inputs from all stakeholders.

Noting the plan and the effort, Nadir sees the need for CARICOM countries to pull together the national plans which could be enhanced with some of the recommendations put forward by the CTO/CHA; that there be a meeting of tourism officials to decide how the regional effort could supplement the countries’ programmes; and for the countries to discuss their plans around the table and look for synergies necessary in any regional effort.

The scheme, he said, has failed to take into account national plans and how they will drive and dovetail with the regional proposals.

In a critique of the CTO/CHA report, Nadir said that it deals with the region as if it was a homogenous product offering and the needs of small and emerging destinations and non-island countries were not addressed. It also failed to identify market segments to go after, including going after non-traditional markets.

He said it failed to take cognisance of the ‘Caribbean’ as the CTO/CHA has over 32 countries of which CARICOM represents only half. This means, Nadir said, that when CARICOM heads deal with the CTSP and if the CTO/CHA will be the implementing arm of the plan, CARICOM countries could still be stymied by other governments’ inertia.

An issue to be tackled, he said, would be how to get all countries in the CTO to sign on to the proposals. In addition, he said, benefits to territories need to be addressed or countries will drop out of the plan.

The plan, Nadir said, does not come up with a ‘cost’ of programme proposals to achieve the objectives as set out and a costing of the programme was necessary because it will give governments an idea of the financial quantum of commitment necessary.

Referring to the Sustain-able Tourism Development Fund, Nadir said that the report ‘allocates’ funds, which were unrealisable in the near future. The plan, he added, could not stand alone outside of a Sustainable Tourism Development Fund which he described as being bigger than the CARICOM countries.

Commenting on the fund that was generally agreed to, Nadir said that some means were needed to garner the financing for the CTSP but the "difficulty is getting agreement on the modality."

Among the terms of reference, the consultants, CTO/CHA, were required to review critically the various papers, presentations, perspectives and recommendations submitted to and at the summit; as well as the national tourism strategic plans where available and to seek inputs from private and public sector stakeholders.

They were also expected to evolve a set of critical priorities which would assist the Caribbean region (defined as CTO/CHA member countries) to meet the objectives/targets identified above in the short and medium term on a reinforcing and sustainable basis.

In addition, the consultants had to incorporate the identified priorities into a strategic framework for sustainable tourism development in the Caribbean over the next ten years; and develop costing or estimates for the main initiatives at the regional level and where feasible, at the national level for the first three years.