Two senior regional tourism officials say that regional governments will need to collaborate closely with the private sector as the Caribbean moves beyond the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that has severely affected the regional tourism product.
“We know from experience with hurricanes and health crisis situations that when the business community and governments work in a unified way they are able to accelerate the return to full employment, restoring tax revenue, rebuilding dynamic business, and enhancing education, health and other government services,” Frank J Comito, director general of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA); and Brian D Frontin, president of the Caribbean Society of Hotel Association Executives (CSHAE) said in a joint statement.
The two officials said that the non-profit tourism associations of the Caribbean are integral to the region’s recovery and to the sustained profitability of the tourism and hospitality sector.
They said all stakeholders should be speaking with one voice through their national associations and the CHTA on hurdling the barriers lining the path back to profitability.
“The most important thing the business community can do is to support its local and regional hotel and tourism associations by being as collaborative and engaged as possible on a variety of issues which affect their bottom line and the well-being of the communities where they operate.”
They argue that non-profit organisations are society’s biggest change agents, especially the business-led non-government organisations marshalling and leveraging resources at the local, regional and international levels.
“Their historic contributions to the economies and development of the Caribbean region are considerable, working tirelessly for decades on advocacy, training and education, research, marketing, beautification, environmental protection, energy efficiency, product development, and community enhancements. One can easily state that through the dedicated volunteer business leadership of these non-profit organisations, businesses and governments throughout the Caribbean have flourished.”
“Our biggest challenge as non-profit organizations is to get many more in the business community to realise that we are their insurance policy. But we need them to pay the correct premium for this insurance coverage.”— Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association and Caribbean Society of Hotel Association
But they noted that “today, however, the very survival and future viability of many of these organisations is in question”.
The two officials said that the rapid Caribbean-wide response of CHTA to the crisis was made possible by national tourism associations assembling data from countries and territories, which were fed to member groups directly to support local efforts or through such avenues as the resilience series of webinars launched by CHTA.
“The value of our membership associations has been proven so often that we may be suffering from our own success as destinations and resorts appear to be taking our collective efforts for granted. Our biggest challenge as non-profit organizations is to get many more in the business community to realise that we are their insurance policy. But we need them to pay the correct premium for this insurance coverage.”
They said every association in the Caribbean is financially strapped, “but we in regional and national organisations are being asked on a daily basis to do far more with fewer resources during the toughest of times.
“Without the urgent support of industry stakeholders, some of these long-standing national hotel and tourism associations may soon be forced to close their doors. Such closures would be lamentable because we are all in this together, not just those in the major breadwinner of the region, tourism, but also the majority of private sector concerns linked to the sector.”
They said several businesses, such as insurance companies, telecommunications firms, wholesalers, shipping firms, and service providers are among the many industry players whose success has been built through tourism.
“Decades of development work by the region’s 33 national hotel and tourism associations and CHTA have contributed to their collective success. Now, in this time of incredible vulnerability, as best they can, we need these businesses, along with all tourism-related businesses, to support our non-profit organisations and associations.
“After all, this would be a business imperative — not an act of charity — because they will be investing in the recovery of the most important revenue producer of the region. The return on their investment in tourism associations will help to reignite tourism faster, which will more readily accrue benefits to these businesses in the medium to long term.
“The pandemic lockdowns have allowed our associations to make our industry smarter and stronger by intensifying training in the sector with heightened hygiene and health and safety guidelines. Our training modules are now being carefully studied by the private sector — another benefit produced by non-profits that helps corporations,” they added.