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Caribbean Tourism Performance Scores High Marks Despite The Pandemic

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Adaptability, flexibility and collaboration essential for Caribbean success, reports CHTA exec

September 9, 2021 – Despite daunting challenges presented over the past 18 months by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Caribbean tourism and hospitality industry recorded many significant successes, and data points to an encouraging outlook ahead.

Speaking during the opening plenary session at the Caribbean Hotel & Resort Investment Summit (CHRIS) held last week, Acting CEO & Director General of the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA) Vanessa Ledesma presented insights on the performance and outlook of the Caribbean tourism industry.

The pandemic’s impact on the travel and tourism industry globally has been severe, resulting in the loss of millions of jobs worldwide.

The World Travel & Tourism Council’s annual Economic Impact Report indicates that the pandemic delivered a blow of $33.9 billion in lost revenue to the Caribbean’s travel and tourism sector, lowering the sector’s contribution to GDP by 58 percent, higher than the global average. Some 680,000 tourism-related jobs were lost, representing nearly one-fourth of all jobs in the sector.

According to CHTA’s Data Partner ForwardKeys, the Caribbean outperformed its global counterparts in terms of international arrivals in July 2021 relative to July 2019, experiencing an overall decline of 13.2 percent compared to other regions, which suffered losses ranging from 21 percent (Central America) to 85.5 percent (Asia Pacific). The U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico were the top performing Caribbean destinations, with arrivals up by 106.3 percent and 39.7 percent, respectively.

Recognizing the impact which the COVID-19 delta variant (first detected in India) is now having on global travel and the fact that global competition has increased as more destinations have opened up to travel since March, weekly ticket sales for future travel to the Caribbean from the United States have slowed in recent weeks.

Although confirmed tickets for travel to the Caribbean during the coming months are down slightly, some destinations, including Puerto Rico, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Aruba and The Bahamas, are experiencing levels ahead of those recorded prior to the pandemic. Ledesma confirmed that these findings are not surprising given expanded airline routes from major U.S. markets and strong load factors from North America.

In response to the public health crisis, Caribbean tourism leaders are seizing the opportunity to stimulate policy discussions on how best to support the return of airlift to the region. With an initial focus on intra-regional travel, stakeholders are examining the feasibility of reducing aviation taxes and airport charges, fostering better market access and increasing regulatory harmonization across the region.

“We are particularly pleased to see the initiatives being taken by Prime Minister Gaston Browne from Antigua and Barbuda, Prime Minister Mia Mottley from Barbados, and Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves from St. Vincent and the Grenadines who are looking to stimulate travel within the region with policy initiatives which can reduce the cost of travel,” noted Ledesma.

Ledesma also shared several industry-specific key performance indicators that confirm strong demand for travel to the Caribbean but also suggest the road to full recovery will be a long one. For example, although year-to-date Average Daily Rates for hotel stays in North America recorded in July 2021 are highest in the Caribbean, Occupancy Rates were higher in the United States and Mexico. Among Caribbean destinations with the highest Revenue Per Available Room (RevPAR) for July 2021 year-to-date, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico are the only two destinations showing an increase for 2021 compared to the same period in 2019; not surprisingly, RevPAR for the Caribbean overall fell significantly from 2019 to 2021.

Barring any potentially negative travel trends resulting from new coronavirus spikes or outbreaks, the CHTA leader pointed to several encouraging indicators that suggest the region’s bread-and-butter industry is well poised for a strong rebound. Comparing June 2020 to June 2021, Occupancy Rates in the Caribbean increased from 13.5 percent to 48.2 percent, reflecting the pent-up demand for travel to the region; comparing July 2020 to July 2021, rates rose from 19.5 percent to 53.6 percent.

According to CHTA’s Strategic Partner STR, as of July 2021, destinations with the highest Occupancy Rates in the region were: Aruba (82.6 percent), Puerto Rico (81.2 percent), Turks & Caicos (79.6 percent), Cancun (74.4 percent) and Curaçao (71.7 percent).

Drawing on research from CHTA Strategic Partner Mastercard, Ledesma shared findings which revealed that consumers are increasing their spend in destination, as well as their length of stay.

She credited the trade association’s unique health-and-tourism partnership with the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) with being instrumental in promoting effective health safety prevention and mitigation efforts.

Moving forward, the Caribbean’s recovery strategies and actions will continue to include: advancing health safety initiatives, building trade and traveler confidence, advancing better tour operator policies, advancing regional collaboration to support tourism’s recovery, making the case for travel with key international markets, and advocating for jurisdictional and regional policies supporting recovery.

For the region’s tourism and hospitality industry to experience a robust recovery, the CHTA executive believes that increased governmental support to address rising operational expenses is needed, together with effective communications and public relations, a strong focus on health and safety, a commitment to investing in the region’s human resources, partnership and collaboration, and improved efficiencies.

 

Photo Caption: From left: Federico Moreno-Nickerson of Apple Leisure Group, Vanessa Ledesma and Alexis Capellades of CHTA, and Bill Clegg of Best Western Hotel Group at the CHRIS meeting in Miami last week.

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Caribbean News

CARICOM African Leaders Identify Areas of Co-Operation at Historic First Summit

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CARICOM, September 13, 2021 – Heads of State and Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and Africa have committed to strengthen collaboration and unity and to foster increased trade, investment and people-to-people engagement between the two regions.

The commitment was given during the historic First CARICOM-Africa Summit hosted by Kenya and held virtually on 7 September 2021.  His Excellency Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Kenya, Chair of the Organisation of African Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) presided over the Summit which was attended by Heads of State and Government as well as Heads of Regional Integration Secretariats and Institutions of CARICOM and Africa.

Speakers at the Summit noted its historic nature and that African and Caribbean cultural and political ties run deep based on a shared history, culture, as well as a sense of a common identity.  They cited common historical experiences which inspired the Pan-African Movement championed by the Africans and the diaspora and which established the foundations of a rich and vibrant African-Caribbean relationship. The Leaders expressed the view that they were obligated to build on that vision. It was also noted that this First Summit was being held during the United Nations’ International Decade for People of African Descent.

Key areas of possible co-operation and collaboration were identified by both parties. In his statement during the opening session, Honourable Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda and Chair of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM proposed that September 7th be celebrated as “Africa-CARICOM Day” with a Summit held annually on that date. He also proposed the creation of a Forum of African and Caribbean Territories and States (FACTS), the codifying of a Founding Charter and a Memorandum of Operation of the Forum, a multi-lateral air services agreement, and an investment protection and a double taxation agreement between African and CARICOM states.

President Kenyatta, in his statement at the Opening cited the blue economy, climate change, health and Covid-19, debt sustainability and technology as areas on which the Regions could work together.

In the discussions, the Leaders stressed the importance of exploiting the Blue Economy to boost growth and development. They also committed to foster increased trade and investment through specific agreements and the enhancement of transportation links between the two regions. This could include the removal of the requirement for visas by nationals of CARICOM and African nations.

The Leaders indicated support for the establishment of a CARICOM/Africa public-private partnership dedicated to mobilizing resources and deploying them in critical cutting-edge projects including renewable energy, the creative industries and digital technology. They called for the establishment of a joint CARICOM/AU electronic mass media platform or mechanism to facilitate the flow of news, information and artistic programming between CARICOM and Africa. On the institutional front, they proposed the establishment of an African-Caribbean Forum and the drafting of an Africa-Caribbean Charter and memorandum of understanding to underpin the relationship.

The Heads of State and Government expressed concern about the mutation and spread of the Covid-19 Virus and its effects on the health of the people as well as on the health infrastructure. In that regard, they called for increased access to vaccines and for the building of manufacturing capacity to produce vaccines in Africa and CARICOM enabled by a waiver of intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines. The contribution of the African Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP) in making vaccines available to CARICOM was lauded.

The existential threat posed by climate change was acknowledged and there was agreement on the need for the global community to act towards curtailing greenhouse gas emissions in order to limit global warming to below 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. They supported a joint approach to the negotiations at COP26 to be held in the United Kingdom in November.

There was strong support for multilateralism and the strengthening and reform of multilateral institutions to become more inclusive to reflect the post-colonial world. The Leaders reiterated their commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals. While welcoming the Debt Service Suspension Initiative, they emphasised the need for debt relief.

They also called for an end to the illegal and unjust economic embargo against Cuba and to the sanctions against Zimbabwe.

The Heads of State and Government agreed to participate fully in the High Level meeting of the UN General Assembly later this month to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the 2001 UN World Conference Against Racism, and to jointly use that event to advance the claim for reparations within the processes of the United Nations.

The Summit ended with a mandate for the institutionalisation of co-operation between the CARICOM Secretariat and the African Union Commission.

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Bahamas News

Commander Defence Force attends UK-Second Caribbean Chiefs of Defence Conference, Antigua

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#Bahamas, September 13, 2021 – In keeping with the Global Security Collaborative Framework and Commander Defence Force, Commodore Dr. Raymond King’s strategic intent in strengthening joint relationships with its regional and international partnerships, Commodore King attended the UK- Chief of Defence Staff (CHoDs’) in Antigua from 1- 3 September, 2021 to share best practices and to discuss matters of mutual interest.

Accompanied by his Aide, Sub Lieutenant Delroy Dennis, the sessions also included General Sir Nick Carter; Gen Chief of Defence Staff, United Kingdom of Great Britain, and Northern Ireland; Major General C S Collins, General Officer Commanding 1st UK Division; Lieutenant Colonel Simon Westlake Royal Marines United Kingdom’s Defence Attaché to the Caribbean; and Commander Brian Trim MBE RN Commander task Group.

Also in attendance were countries with various Chiefs of Defence Staff, in particular; Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Belize, Dominican Republic, Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and defence and security partners across the region, who took part virtually, and shared their views on global security and joint partnerships. They all agreed on several initiatives with training and education designed to improve collective capacity to deal with the diverse security challenges that confront the region.

The inaugural conference convened virtually in November 2020, with each of the regional Chiefs of Defence. This second conference focused on building on the success of the virtual event in strengthening the UK-Caribbean relationships, and developing concepts for UK engagement with its Caribbean partners on issues of mutual interest.

The three-day conference commenced with an ice-breaker reception and concert at Blizzard Camp, hosted by Antigua and Barbuda (ATG) – Chief of Defence Staff Colonel Telbert Benjamin, and joined by the Governor General, Sir Rodney Williams. The core conference which took place on September 2nd, began with an opening ceremony, supported by the Prime Minister of ATG, Sir Gaston Browne.

In the first core session, UK- Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland General Sir Nick Carter set out the UK perspective on the strategic context, informed by the recently concluded Integrated Review (IR) and Defence Command Plan (DCP). The three individual sessions covered issues of serious organized crime threats; regional initiatives and the implications for UK Defence engagement; and natural threats.

The UK- CDS expressed his ambition to use the conference as a vehicle for institutional capacity building, military capability development, training and education, doctrine, and concepts. These are ways to maximize collective security development with focused UK engagement while better constructing an approach that matches the region’s aspirations and requirements.

The final session of the three-day conference was held aboard HMS MEDWAY, River Class Offshore Patrol Vessel built on the Clyde. This permanent Caribbean patrol ship was deployed to the Caribbean to support disaster relief and conduct counter-trafficking operations as an alternative setting for a maritime security focused discussion. It served as a setting to discuss regional maritime security, which included talks around preparedness for Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Response (HADR), and UK involvement in regional partnerships.

Photo Captions: 

Header: Participants at the UK- second Caribbean Chief of Defence Staff (CHoDs’) in Antigua, 1- 3 September, 2021. 

1st insert: Commodore Raymond King, the Commander Defence Force, presenting his country’s brief on board HMS MEDWAY, during the second Caribbean Chiefs of Defence Staff conference in Antigua. 

2nd insert: Commodore Raymond King, Commander of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force; Brigadier General Steven Andrew Ortega, Commander Belize Defence Force; Lieutenant General Rocky R Meade, Chief of Defence Staff, Jamaica Defence Force; Brigadier Godfrey Bess Chief of Staff, Guyana Defence Force; Air Vice Marshal Darryl Daniel Chief of Defence Staff, Trinidad and Tobago Defence Forces: In the front row; Colonel Telbert Benjamin, Commander of Antigua and Barbuda Defence Force and General Sir Nick Carter, General Chief of Defence Staff, United Kingdom of Great Britain, and Northern Ireland.

3rd insert: Commodore Raymond King, the Commander Royal Bahamas Defence Force; Brigadier General Steven Andrew Ortega, Commander Belize Defence Force; General de Brigada Angel A Camacho Ubiera Inspector General of the Dominican Republic Army; Antigua and Barbuda – Colonel Telbert Benjamin, Commander of Antigua and Barbuda Defence Force; Major General C S Collins, General Officer Commanding 1st UK Division; Lieutenant General Rocky R Meade, Chief of Defence Staff, Jamaica Defence Force; Brigadier Godfrey Bess Chief of Staff, Guyana Defence Force; Air Vice Marshal Darryl Daniel Chief of Defence Staff, Trinidad and Tobago Defence Forces Trinidad and Tobago; and Air Vice Marshal Darryl Daniel Chief of Defence Staff, Trinidad and Tobago Defence Forces.

(Photos courtesy Mr. Wayne Mariette)

 

 (For further information please contact the RBDF Public Relations Department or visit our website: www.rbdf.gov.bs, follow us on FacebookTwitter and view our Youtube channel) 

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Bahamas News

Caribbean Wellness Day 2021

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#Caribbean, September 13, 2021 – Health, in every facet, is sought-after, at great expense, by all members of the global community. Though the success of our endeavours in health varies from region to region, it must be emphasised that in our Region, a healthy Caribbean is always the goal for which we strive.

Each year the Caribbean Region observes, Caribbean Wellness Day since it was established at the 2007 landmark summit, ‘Declaration of Port of Spain: Uniting to Stop the Epidemic of Chronic Non-communicable Diseases.’

This year’s commemoration focuses on equitable access to health; an all of society approach to health and well-being, and building healthy communities under the theme, “Power Through Collective Action: In it Together, Building Healthy Communities.”

As health care systems are being taxed by the devastating effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic, it is even more important now to advocate for equitable access to health. Too many of our Caribbean citizens face harsh realities, because of inequities in access – this should not be. Caribbean Wellness Day is the most opportune time for the members of our Caribbean community to ensure that the health of our people is indeed a priority through legislative change, health in all policies and all of society action.

Equitable access to health care in the Caribbean is one of CARPHA’s points of focus as can be seen through our work to ensure equitable access to PPE, equipment, supplies and vaccines through the COVAX facility, a mechanism whose primary function is to ensure the equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and donations notably the US Government donation of 5.5 million doses of Pfizer BioNTech.

Without the power of voices in chorus, like with the COVAX facility; the Caribbean Cooperation in Health (CCH) and others – many more would be disadvantaged and unserved. Achieving health for all in the Caribbean also means attaining and sustaining healthy environments.

The built environment, which provides for sidewalks, bike lanes, community parks and green spaces, can influence lifestyles, body weight, and improve mental health. As these necessary frameworks are made reality and we avail ourselves of them, we exercise Power through Collective Action showing that we are truly in it together, Building Healthy Communities.

As we speak about the environment, we must mention the effects of climate change. The inaction in the past has set the world on a course of environmental destruction. We need to act now; it is the only way that we can protect the generations to come from even worse realities than those we face today.

As we seek to mitigate the damage done due to inaction on the recommended major climate change interventions, we need to address other pertinent issues. Vector-borne diseases remain a challenge in many Caribbean territories, and unlike the bleak outlook that is presented on climate change, simple adjustments in our behaviour can make the world of difference.

By eradicating breeding grounds of mosquitoes in our immediate environment and communities, we minimize the spread of many vector-borne diseases. Advocacy in health should be the standard operation of every Region, State, and organisation. Sustaining Health and well-being is one of the very few universal desires.

Regardless of creed, culture, or any other divisive line – all organised bodies have a responsibility to promote health. Further to this, we need to take the time to look after ourselves and our families and communities.

Simple actions – increasing our intake of local produce, reading labels of processed foods to make informed decisions, scheduling regular exercise – these actions will drastically improve the health and quality of life of our people.

Working together to this end, will lead to healthier minds, healthier bodies, and a Caribbean that exudes wellness.

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