Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association President Josef Forstmayr has called for urgent action by all Caribbean governments for a sustainable cooperative marketing and promotion fund and regional integration and removal of barriers for intra-Caribbean travel.
At the same time, he urged the citizens and governments of all Caribbean nations to support strong advocacy for the recognition of tourism as the number one industry generating jobs in the region.
In a speech to the Internal Auditors Association of Jamaica on Friday, Forstmayr opened his remarks with a recent quote from Prime Minister David Cameron of Great Britain who said, "For too long tourism has been looked down on as a second class service sector. That's just wrong. Tourism is a fiercely competitive market, requiring skills, talent, enterprise and a government that backs Britain. It's fundamental to the rebuilding and rebalancing of our economy. It's one of the best and fastest ways of generating the jobs we need so badly in this country."
Forstmayr incorporated the UK Prime Minister's words because "they are just as applicable to the Caribbean, even more so to the Caribbean."
Forstmayr urged that, "In order to remain viable in the future, we need to ensure the sustainability of our industry today. There must be a strong consensus of our leaders and the public so that travel and tourism will receive the full support it needs as the Caribbean's most vital export.
"It is therefore crucial that our governments embrace the economic importance of the tourism industry as a major generator of jobs throughout the region," he added.
Forstmayr explained that one of his first acts as president of CHTA, representing the hospitality and tourism industry across 36 nations in the Caribbean, was to launch the "Tourism is Key" advocacy campaign underlining the importance of travel and tourism to local Caribbean economies.
The "Tourism is Key" ad campaign highlights several important facts: travel and tourism directly and indirectly employs more than 1.9 million people in the Caribbean (one in every nine jobs), it employs 284,000 people in Jamaica (almost one in every four jobs), it accounts for 12.8 percent of the Caribbean's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and for 27.7 percent of Jamaica's GDP, which is more than $3.7 billion.
“We in the Caribbean hotel industry recognize that the economic importance of travel and tourism to the Caribbean is indisputable,” said Forstmayr. “However, there is still insufficient awareness and understanding of the industry's economic contribution and how it permeates the depth and breadth of the general economy and overall fabric of Caribbean society.”