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OUTSIDE THE PULPIT: Unite to promote Caribbean tourism


OUTSIDE THE PULPIT: Unite to promote Caribbean tourism

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ON WEDNESDAY, March 19, 2014, tourism officials in Barbados and across the Caribbean received some very surprising and pleasant news from England.
It was while delivering the 2014 budget in the British House of Commons, the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osbourne announced that changes will be made to the air passenger duty (APD) effective April 2015 to our region. 
I am sure that the players in the tourism industry were not looking for such a reduction.
After the tax was implemented in 2010, officials and their allies in the international travel industry mounted a significant lobby against what they deemed an unfair tax that jeopardised the viability of the tourism sector and the life blood of many of the small island economies of the region.  
The result showed the benefits of the sustained lobbying and advocacy on the part of the many special interest groups. We must never forget that unity is always strength.
The next 12 months could very well mean the difference between success or failure for our tourism industry and many governments.
We as a country welcome the removal of the levy (APD), but we must ask ourselves if the Chancellor is interested in Barbados and the countries in the region.
I think the answer is no. 
We must not be misled into believing that Mr Osborne’s announcement during the Budget was based on interest in tourism in the region. 
The truth is that a general election is due in Britain by May next year.
His presentation was a sort of last opportunity to give people there (Britain) a chance to reflect on their financial situation.
It is good for Barbados, because Britain is one of our major markets, if not the major one.  When it comes to tourism, we need those visitors to come to our country.
The APD has taught us many lessons, the most important of which is what can be achieved by tasking a united stand. Barbados could not have done it alone, neither could Jamaica or Trinidad and Tobago.
So while we have made headway in reducing the air passenger duty, there is a bigger lesson for all of us.  We must remain united in promoting the Caribbean tourism brand.