Calls for Caribbean cooperation and collaboration were amplified throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and with good reason.
Edmund Bartlett, Jamaica's ever-visible Minister of Tourism has long been vocal about the importance of "coopetition" as a necessary tool to employ if we are going to increase our tiny share of the global tourism pie.
Speaking on the periphery of an Organisation of American States (OAS)-sponsored Small Tourism Enterprises (STE) forum in Jamaica, Bartlett mounted the idea of a CARICOM visa to facilitate the multi-destination experience, similar to what visitors enjoyed during the 2007 Cricket World Cup.
In addition to a visa-type program, we also need efficient and affordable aerial highway solutions — not only for the benefit of visitors, but also to meet the needs of Caribbean residents traveling intra-regionally for leisure, family travel or business. During the recent World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) Sustainability & Investment Summit in San Juan, respected hospitality veteran Frank Rainieri of the Dominican Republic bemoaned the fact that it remains so difficult to travel throughout the region, unlike Europe, where travellers seamlessly commute from one country to another.
The WTTC also made it abundantly clear that for the region to continue its robust tourism rebound, strong public-private sector collaboration must be the order of the day.
As Mr Rainieri suggested: “We need a true pan-Caribbean gathering to address these longstanding, vexing challenges. Indeed, there is an abundance of intellectual talent and a plethora of resources across our diverse region to translate vision into a profitable reality.
“We largely missed the boat in the implementation of unified COVID-19 travel protocols throughout the region, but we now have an opportunity to cure some of our inefficiencies as we rebound from the pandemic. Yes we are diverse — different languages, different governments, different cultures — but the time is right to leverage these diversities into strengths.
Those with ears, please let them hear.