This has been thus far a fantastic Caribbean Week, with renewed energy and purpose among our ministers, directors, tourism officials and everyone involved.
For the first time ever we presented Caribbean culture and heritage in a very practical manner at our Diaspora Forum, which itself returned to Brooklyn after many years.
Truly dynamic performances by La Troupe Zetwal of Haiti and Danza Fiesta of Puerto Rico were a demonstration of our truly rich and diverse culture.
As always, the Students Colloquium was a highlight of the Week. Our congratulations to Monroe College for emerging winners among a group of very impressive students.
We were delighted to host former Congressman, Charles Rangel on Tuesday night, during which he was presented with an award by the Caribbean Community Caucus of Ambassadors in appreciation of his longstanding work in advancing US-Caribbean relations during his 46 years in Congress.
Yesterday, I chaired my first CTO Council of Ministers and Commissioners meeting in what was truly an enriching experience. The passion for CTO and the Caribbean that was so evident at the meeting was extremely encouraging and bodes well for the organization and regional tourism.
The Council of Ministers and Commissioners endorsed a joint CTO/CHTA collaboration to put together for the consideration of Caribbean Community heads of government, a framework for the development of a Caribbean public-private sector tourism marketing and development initiative.
The ministers also strongly supported the development of a five-year strategic plan for the organization, a process that has already begun.
We agreed to continue a process to determine whether or not to expand the CTO membership to countries outside the traditional Caribbean region, but washed by the Caribbean Sea, and which seek membership in the organization.
The ministers also strongly endorsed Jamaica’s hosting of the UNWTO, Government of Jamaica and World Bank Group Conference on Jobs & Inclusive Growth: Partnerships for Sustainable Tourism, at the Montego Bay Convention Centre, November 27-29, 2017.
Now, a brief word on the region’s performance so far this year.
In the first quarter of 2017, destinations around the region received 8.7 million international tourist arrivals. This is 150 thousand more than in the same period of 2016, a 1.8 per cent increase.
The grouping which we refer to as other Caribbean destinations – Cancun, Cozumel, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Suriname -led growth across the sub-regions, with international tourist arrivals up 6.3 per cent as of the end of March.
Of the remaining sub-regions, the French Caribbean was the only other to record an increase in international trips. Within the other groupings, visitor arrivals fell by 1.3 per cent.
After an uncharacteristically weak performance in 2016, the Canadian market has rebounded in 2017 to post the highest growth rate of 4.8 per cent in the first quarter.
Europe was up 2.9 per cent and the United States 1.3 per cent.
However, data compiled by STR Global Ltd (STR) for the first quarter indicated that the hotel industry continued to struggle. While the number of available rooms increased by 1.1 per cent, room revenue, average daily rates and revenue per available rooms all fell.
In the first three months, cruise passenger arrivals increased by an estimated 4.5 per cent compared to the same period of last year. This performance translated to approximately 10 million cruise passengers arriving in Caribbean destinations.
Let me also take the opportunity to congratulate those of you in the media who won awards today. Thanks to all of you for all you do to promote the Caribbean.
Congratulations also to our Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, Patrick Baucelin of Martinique. A true Caribbean soldier.
I also wish to thank the CTO staff for working so hard to make Caribbean Week a success.