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CTO Aviation Task Force Recommends Single Visa Regime to Enhance Visitor Experience in Member Countries

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (11 Feb 2013) –  The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) Aviation Task Force – a highly focused committee established to facilitate air transportation into and throughout the Caribbean and to enhance airlift – has recommended a review of visa regimes in member countries in order to improve the visitor experience.

The task force is to recommend to its membership a system similar to the Europe’s Schengen visa programme where visitors who are cleared at the initial port of entry can continue travelling seamlessly throughout most of the European Union.
The decision came out of a recent meeting of the CTO Aviation Task Force held at the Royal Antiguan Hotel in St John’s, Antigua to review issues affecting intra-regional travel and make recommendations for increasing consumer demand.

The group agreed that full clearance at the first port of entry was necessary to ensure an improved cross regional experience by visitors. It was agreed that the sub-regional grouping, the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, (OECS) should be used as a model for such a single visa regime. The OECS is in the process of establishing a single economic space and is expected to implement full clearance at the first point of entry into the sub-group. The CTO Aviation Task Force agreed that this best practice would be reviewed after its implementation for possible replication across the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) region and beyond.

In addition to a single visa regime, the Task Force is recommending a standardized entry and exit card– otherwise called immigration or ED card – across the Caribbean. This,would help reduce airlines’ costs and improve customer service at Caribbean airports. Again, the OECS, which is expected to introduce the use of one common ED card, will be used as a model.

Other recommendations include an analysis of the impact of taxes and fees on the cost of regional air travel and a more holistic approach towards air travel revenue; including a possible ticket tax rebate when a traveller starts and ends the journey in another destination of the same domestic space. The task force also identified an urgent need to end secondary screening for intra-regional passengers who are in transit since the current practice diminishes the overall travellers’ experience.
Also on the Aviation Task Force agenda were issues related to the CARICOM Multilateral Air Services Agreement, open skies, and other regulations and restrictions facing airlines serving the Caribbean.

The Antigua meeting was attended by senior representatives of air and seaport authorities, regional airlines, regulatory bodies, aviation consultants, policy-makers and tourism professionals from CTO member countries and the international community. It was jointly chaired by the CTO Chairman, Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty of the US Virgin Islands and CTO past Chairman Ricky Skerritt, Minister of International Transport of St. Kitts and Nevis.

Posted in: 2013 News, Aviation Task Force, Blog

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CTO to Arrange Meetings with Regional Ministries & Technical Officials to Tackle Aviation Issues

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (17 Dec, 2012) –  The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) will lead a mission in the New Year to meet with top ministerial officials and technical personnel in its member countries to seek their assistance in the advancement of  better intra-regional air links to help boost tourism in the region.

This was one of several recommendations coming out of the inaugural meeting of the CTO Aviation Task Force which took place at the regional tourism development agency’s headquarters in Barbados recently.

The recently appointed CTO Chairman, the USVI Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty, reported a successful inaugural meeting which discussed the cost of intra-regional travel, the economic impact of the declines in travel, improving the ease of passenger movement, and launching actions to improve the efficiency of Caribbean aviation.  The meeting was jointly chaired by Commissioner Nicholson-Doty and CTO past chairman Ricky Skerritt, Minister of Tourism and International Transport of St. Kitts and Nevis.

“We had an excellent first meeting and we are confident that CTO’s leadership in this area will be critical to reviving growth in intra-regional travel which has declined seriously in recent years,” the CTO chairman said.

The Aviation Committee discussed the San Juan Accord – a memorandum on the regional air transport sector that was agreed by CTO members in 2007 – as well as other  important issues such as minimum revenue guarantees, communication among regional carriers, “open skies” agreements, government taxes and fees, fuel costs, visa restrictions, passenger security-screening arrangements, airlift capacity and the dependency of local hotels on the intra-regional market.

Another key item addressed was American Eagle’s possible departure from the San Juan hub in 2013 and both the opportunities and challenges this presents, especially for destinations in the Eastern Caribbean which depend on this commuter service.

Among other recommendations, the Committee proposed a meeting between airline and airport operators within the first few weeks of the New Year and a region-wide meeting of transportation ministers and commissioners in the first quarter of 2013.
The composition of the Committee reflects technical, regulatory and policy-making experience and has public/private sector representation from tourism professionals, accommodations, airlines, airports and aviation consultants.

EDITORS NOTE

The following are the initial members of the CTO Aviation Committee:

Richard Skerritt, Minister of Tourism & International Transport, St. Kitts and Nevis, Co-Chair
Jaime Lopez Diaz, Chief Development Officer of the Department of Economic Development and Commerce, Government of Puerto Rico, Co-Chair
Beverly Nicholson-Doty, Chairman, CTO Council of Ministers; & Commissioner of Tourism, United States Virgin Islands
Brian Challenger, Aviation Consultant to the Government of Antigua & Barbuda
Donald McPhail, Director, Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority
Elizabeth Scotton, Chief Commercial Officer, Sangster International Airport, Jamaica
Dayanand Birju, General Manager, Airports Authority, Trinidad & Tobago
Neville Boxill, Aviation Consultant, Barbados Tourism Authority
Pauline Yearwood, Deputy Programme Manager, Transportation, CARICOM Secretariat
Josef Forstmayr, Chairman, Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association
Michael Lum, Air Service Strategy and Development Consultant, Sixel Aviation Consulting
Ian Bertrand, Principal, El Perial Aviation Consulting
Colin Jones, Regional Representative, International Air Transport Association
Hugh Riley, Secretary General, Caribbean Tourism Organization

Posted in: 2012 News, Aviation Task Force, Blog

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Caribbean Tourism Organization Names Aviation Committee

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados — Nov. 13, 2012 – The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), the international agency responsible for leading the development of Caribbean tourism, has announced a highly focused CTO Aviation Committee to facilitate air transportation into and throughout the Caribbean and to enhance airlift. Particular emphasis will be placed on CTO member-countries.

The committee is being co-chaired by the former CTO chairman, Sen. Ricky Skerritt, who is minister of tourism and international transport of St Kitts and Nevis. The composition of the committee reflects technical, regulatory and policy-making experience and has public/private sector representation from tourism professionals, accommodations, airlines, airports and aviation consultancies.

During her inaugural news conference at the CTO State of the Industry Conference in St Kitts on 12 October, the incoming chairman, Beverly Nicholson-Doty, the US Virgin Islands’ commissioner of tourism, announced her intention to establish this committee within 30 days.

Nicholson-Doty and the CTO secretariat have been working closely since then to bring together some of the region’s most creative minds to form the committee.

“The CTO recognizes that air transportation is crucial to the success of Caribbean tourism and it is imperative that we seek convenient, affordable and reliable air service if we are to realize our vision of positioning the Caribbean as the world’s most desirable, year round, warm weather destination in five years,” the CTO chairman said.

The CTO Aviation Committee is charged with a number of responsibilities, including the development and implementation of strategies for increasing intra-Caribbean tourism; examining the volume and potential of air service into and within the Caribbean; reviewing the status of regulations governing air transportation to and within the region and encouraging and facilitating the establishment of practices and procedures that ease the movement of passengers to and throughout the region.

In addition, the committee will encourage and develop relationships between carriers, regulators, airport authorities, customs, immigration, security and other relevant entities, with a view to removing barriers to cooperation; review aviation taxation and related fees and make recommendations where necessary;

Intra-regional travel, in particular, air access, was a major talking point at last month’s State of the Industry Conference, with presentations from American Airlines, British Airways and LIAT all aimed at identifying solutions to the challenges facing air transportation into and within the Caribbean.

Posted in: 2012 News, Aviation Task Force, Blog

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