The Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA), representing the private sector tourism interests of the region, is calling for the establishment of a Caribbean Basin Tourism Initiative (CBTI) to address the region's socio-economic challenges and create new opportunities for stimulating trade, travel and investment throughout the region.
The recommendation is presented in a position paper that the CHTA released this week, titled "Cuba: The Great Disruption for the Good of the Caribbean."
A CBTI would be patterned off of the Caribbean Basin Initiative, a regional policy advanced by the United States in the 1980s, but this time focusing on tourism rather than manufacturing to strengthen the region's economies and stimulate trade and investments within the Caribbean and with the U.S., its leading trading partner in goods and services. The U.S. is the region's leading market for tourists.
CHTA's paper outlines the need for a clear and proactive collaborative regional tourism development strategy by both the U.S. and the Caribbean public and private sectors. It is being distributed among regional leaders of both the public and private sector and also was presented to the U.S. International Trade Commission for their consideration, as it outlines issues facing the Caribbean with the U.S. preparing to allow American citizens to once again vacation in Cuba.
"CHTA has engaged its diverse membership in preparation for this position paper intended to advance a new direction for the hospitality and tourism industries in the region as well as provoking dialogue and a working strategy from which we can build upon," said Emil Lee, president of the CHTA, in a written release.
"We recognize that the opening of Cuba to American tourists will have an impact on both Cuba and the region," Lee continued, "and want to maximize the positive benefits for all stakeholders and, at the same time, set a tone for a new era of cooperation among Caribbean nations."
Similar to the original Caribbean Basin Initiative of the 1980s, CBTI contemplates policy and technical support to the region with partners like the CHTA and its government counterpart, the Caribbean Tourism Organization, engaged with the U.S. and other stakeholders in the development and delivery of an economically sound, safe and stable Caribbean.
The position paper outlines an agenda for Cuba's reemergence as a destination for American visitors and provides a contextual backdrop of the various competitiveness issues facing Cuba and the region's tourism industry. It points to the broader ramifications facing Cuba and the region if these issues are not addressed. And, it speaks to the opportunities presented through trade liberalization.
"The impact Cuba will have on our ability to attract investment in much-needed tourism infrastructure and human resources, not just in Havana, but throughout the entire Caribbean region, simply cannot be overstated," said Lee.