The Official Opening Ceremony for the 3rd meeting of the OECS Council of Ministers for Tourism was held on Thursday at the World renowned Sandals Grande Antigua at Dickenson Bay.
Minister of Tourism, Economic Development, Investment and Energy the Hon. Asot A. Michael who is the official Chair for the meetings delivered the welcome address centered around the theme for the one day meeting “ OECS Economic Union: Tourism, the Driver of Growth and Development”.
With 18 delegates representing OECS Tourism Ministers, Directors of Tourism, Executive Members of the Caribbean Tourism Organization, The Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association and the OECS Commission, Minister Michael used the opportunity to focus on the need to drive towards growth and development in light of the multiple challenges existing across the Tourism Industry.
According to the Hon. Minister these challenges are funneled into the region through security concerns, economic spurs, and other global phenomena.
The OECS Council of Tourism Minister’s meeting is seen as presenting an opportunity to enhance cooperation among the small states of the OECS Economic Union.
“Creativity, innovation, and moving towards a harmonized platform characterized by joint tourism development and promotional efforts in the OECS, are instrumental if we are to truly maximize and diversify our tourism offerings…we must be proactive, we must foster development while at the same time accede to factors of ecological and sustainable concerns”, Minister Michael stated.
The Antiguan Minister of Tourism noted that already new European markets are being targeted for aggressive promotions and this augurs well for all OECS countries.
Director General of the OECS Commission Dr. Didacus Jules, re-enforced these points by citing Heritage and Sports Tourism as niche areas that governments should intensify efforts to develop and make tourism product offerings more unique.
According to Dr. Jules, Germany is an ideal market to target and already an OECS roadshow has been organized for major German cities from June 6th to 9th2016.
Key aspects to be discussed at today’s meeting include Facilitation of Ease of Travel within the OECS, The OECS Eastern Caribbean Institute of Tourism as well as the World Bank Regional Tourism Competitiveness Project.
A regional approach to addressing the ZIKA virus and its implications for the vital tourism sector also forms part of the agenda.