The 29th Caribbean Tourism Conference Opening Ceremony

THE BAHAMAS–Caribbean flair was on display as the 29th Caribbean Tourism Conference officially opened on Sunday, Oct. 22, at the Westin and Sheraton Grand Bahama Island Our Lucaya Resort on Grand Bahama Island, the Bahamas. After being entertained by the Bahamas Police Band, and several Bahamian youth choirs, the Hon. Perry G. Christie, Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas took the podium and delivered a stirring opening address. "Once considered a luxury item," said Christie, "The vacation has become such a necessity that tourism is now the greatest vehicle of global exchange, surpassing even agriculture in the global economy." He exhorted Caribbean leaders to come together and speak with one voice about their concerns about the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, the passport issue. "Those of us who remain affected by the WHTI must band together and mount a united effort to persuade the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to extend to us the same consideration given to the cruise lines," he said.

Christie called for the region to look beyond the traditional hotel model, keep the discussion alive about the need for a regional air carrier, and continue to reinvent Caribbean tourism. Christie is known to break out into a spontaneous dance while speaking and his final remarks touched on this: "I'll dance because I'm happy—I'll dance for the past and the present. But I also dance for the future—and our future is bright."

The conference will run through Oct. 25. The theme of this year's conference is "Cooperation, Innovation, Rejuvenation: Creating a Brand New Caribbean."