I just came back from sitting down with the Caribbean Hotel Association’s (CHA) new president Enrique De Marchena Kaluche, who was officially sworn into office on Sunday at the first Annual Caribbean Tourism Summit (ACTS).
“It’s been a long time coming,” said De Marchena Kaluche, who was elected into office about a year ago. “Now, I’m ready to do what needs to be done. It’s a challenging time but I’m ready for it.”
De Marchena Kaluche will serve from now through 2010, which is anticipated to be a crucial time for fixing some of the region’s ongoing flight problems as well as its lack of regional marketing. He told me that the Caribbean Tourism Development Company (CTDC), which is a collaboration of the CHA and the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), will meet Saturday to discuss the possibility of forming the first-ever regional marketing fund. The fund would involve the pooling of money from the individual members of the CTO and CHA to promote the region as a whole. No further details have been announced. Although De Marchena Kaluche expects members to be receptive to the idea, he is aware that the actual planning of such a historic fund could be a challenge. “It’s easy for everyone to say ‘yes’ to the idea but not as easy when we are establishing a mechanism and funding strategy,” he said.
De Marchena Kaluche also stressed the importance of lowering flight costs to attract more airlift to the region. Over the past year, several major airlines including Air Jamaica, American Airlines and American Eagle have canceled routes and frequencies because of rising costs. De Marchena Kaluche said delegates need to form a detailed flight plan by July 2 for the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) Heads of State Government meeting in Antigua. De Marchena Kaluch said initial brainstorming would include lowering the costs of flights and possibly lowering, if not entirely waiving, costly immigration taxes that airlines currently incur. “I am a realistic man,” he said. “But I am also a positive man. I know that if we all work together, we can fix all the problems that our region faces.”