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Beache: Fuel costs taking toll on Tourism in region

Beache: Fuel costs taking toll on Tourism in region

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The ever-increasing cost of fuel is taking its toll on Tourism in the Caribbean, and, as a region, we need to rally together to counteract it. This was the report delivered by Minister of Tourism Glen Beache, following his emergency meeting last week in Antigua with regional Tourism Ministers, at a press conference on Tuesday, June 3rd.{{more}}

Called by Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) Chairman Allen Chastanet, the meeting reflected on the impact of the fuel crisis on the Tourism Industry, in particular, the effects on airlines, cruise liners and yachting.

Beache announced that three major cruise line companies, Norwegian, Princess and Carnival, are pulling the routes to the Southern Caribbean out of their itineraries because of the increased fuel prices. He highlighted the fact that SVG’s visitor numbers via cruise ships and yachts have gone up significantly in the past year, and are now in danger of decreasing.

He also announced the decision by American Airlines (AA) to cut back flights to the Caribbean by 20%. American Eagle (AE) has also cut back on flights to the Caribbean, especially Puerto Rico. Currently, Puerto Rico is an important hub for Caribbean islands, including SVG, which require indirect flights to get there. AE used to operate over 100 flights per week to Puerto Rico, but up to a month ago only operates just over 30. Added to this, over 300 workers have been laid off, in Puerto Rico, from AE. With a current price of US$137 per barrel, airlines find it difficult to make a profit when prices rise above US$120.

Beache relayed that should the region want to stimulate visitor interest to regain routes that have been cut, the Caribbean needs to reinvent itself. “The Caribbean market is tired…” he admitted. He exempted SVG from this because our tourism product is not on the level of that of the more popular destinations. However, he was mindful that we could easily fall into that ‘tired’ category once SVG fully develops its tourism product and doesn’t do enough to keep visitor interest piqued.

Furthermore, Beache highlighted the fact that the vast majority of airliners coming into the region are foreign owned. During the CTO meeting, it was concluded that this is another factor that should be addressed to minimize the impact of forecasted decreasing visitor numbers. A committee was formed (headed by the Minister of Tourism in the Cayman Islands) to facilitate a closer working relationship between the Caribbean airlines. Beache pointed out that should there be more unity between the airlines, then more revenue generated would remain within the region. “There is no way we should be beaten in our own backyard,” he asserted.

A CTO delegation will be traveling to Puerto Rico next month to convene with representatives from cruise line companies, American Eagle and the FCCA to assess what more can be done about the situation.

Minister Beache made special mention of the two inter-island ferries that are due to come on stream in the coming months. He related that the Government would be fully supportive of this venture as an alternative and cheaper way of inter-island travel, in the hopes that it will increase regional travel. “We would welcome it greatly.” (JSV)

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