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‘Clear visitors at first port’

BEA DOTTIN, [email protected]

‘Clear visitors at first port’

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The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) Aviation Task Force has recommended that regional countries consider implementing a single visa regime and a tax rebate for visitors moving throughout multiple Caribbean destinations.
The Task Force – a committee established to facilitate air transportation into and throughout the Caribbean and to enhance airlift – has suggested a system similar to 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 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,” a statement from the CTO said.
“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 recommended 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,” the CTO said.
Other recommendations included 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 started and ended 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 were in transit since the practice diminished the 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 Beverly Nicholson-Doty of the United States Virgin Islands and CTO past chairman Ricky Skerritt, Minister of International Transport of St Kitts and Nevis. (PR/DP)