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Advocacy in the Caribbean

Private Sector Positions on Tourism Services in Trade Negotiations

Throughout 2007 close collaboration was sustained between the CHTA and the Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery (CRNM) to allow the CHTA to continue to defend its recommendations on the liberalization of regional tourism services within the context of external trade negotiations that the Caribbean region is involved in.

Of highest priority during 2007 was the finalization of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between CARIFORUM (CARICOM + the Dominican Republic) and the European Union (EU). On December 16th, 2007 the final EPA agreement was initialed by representatives of both sides after intense negotiations and only just meeting the looming deadline of the end of 2007. Please click here to read David Jessop’s article reviewing the landmark inclusion of tourism in the Caribbean EPA (downloadable pdf file).

CHTA’s activities with regard to trade negotiations commenced back in 2003 with input into and comment on the CRNM commissioned paper entitled “Tourism Services Negotiations: Implications for CARIFORUM.” This report and industry feedback on it led to the development of an official tourism private sector position to help Caribbean governments and their negotiators to develop a common regional approach to tourism services liberalization issues. These discussions and findings further allowed Caribbean negotiators to have a clear understanding of the significance of the tourism industry to the region and the challenges it faces, and factor it all in their trade negotiations on behalf of the Caribbean.

Subsequently, in January 2005, the CARICOM Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) approved CHTA’s position statement for adoption as the official negotiating position for Caribbean governments moving forward.

The CHTA took further initiative in 2006 by commissioning the production of a joint CHTA-CTO Position Paper on the CARIFORUM-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). This paper presented on behalf of regional tourism stakeholders detailed recommendations and positions on how tourism services should be treated within the EPA agreement currently under development. Simultaneous with the production of the Position Paper, CHTA commission the production of a joint CHTA-CTO Tourism Annex with a view to ensuring that appropriate rules and positions governing tourism services would be integrated into the language of the actual EPA agreement.

Throughout 2007 the CHTA-CTO proposed EPA Position Paper and Annex were reviewed and discussed at the regional level. Following regional consultations a proposal on tourism services was taken forward by the CRNM and tabled in negotiations with the Europeans. The CHTA was pleased at the inclusion, sometimes verbatim, of its suggested text on:

  • Competitive safeguards
  • Access to and use of information e.g. CRS & GDS
  • Mutual recognition of tourism professionals
  • Sustainable tourism development
  • Technical assistance
  • Joint Committee on Tourism

During negotiations it was agreed between CARIFORUM and the EU to include Tourism as a chapter within the EPA agreement rather than a separate annex. This was received as a positive development given that tourism itself has never been included as a separately considered sector in any regional trading agreement in the past.

In the final agreement there are comprehensive rules for the tourism sector including those to safeguard the interests of the mainly small firms in the Caribbean by preventing large firms from behaving in an anti-competitive manner. There are also provisions for cooperation and mutual recognition of qualifications as well as technical assistance for the tourism sector. The EPA also has special provisions for Short Term Visitors for Business Purposes in the tourism sector as well as others.

Advocacy in action: Although the Caribbean EPA has been completed there remains work to be done which will require the ongoing involvement of the CHTA. For instance, details remain to be ironed out on the implementation of rules and requirements agreed to in the EPA and the overall management of the same. Where these pertain to tourism there will be the expectation that the CHTA will continue to be involved. Further, the mechanisms for the distribution and use of development financing is yet to be determined and again, as far as this pertains to the tourism sector CHTA will remain involved.

It is expected that the CHTA’s approach to inputting into the EPA negotiations will form a template approach which may be applied to other future trade negotiations such as the Region’s likely future discussions with Canada and the USA.

CHTA Position on Climate Change and Carbon Emission Trading

Given the recent explosion of interest internationally, but in particular in the EU, regarding the climate change issue and the environmental impacts of the tourism industry in particular, the CHTA took the initiative earlier this year to collaborate with the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) on the formulation of a regional tourism position on climate change and carbon emissions trading.

Following the completion of the position paper, the CHTA, its environmental subsidiary, the Caribbean Alliance for Sustainable Tourism (CAST), along with the CTO, hosted a meeting in London on March 13th, to discuss recent developments in UK government policy affecting the travel industry, aimed at mitigating the effects of climate change.  Representatives from tour operators, airlines, travel associations, and government all met to discuss areas such as taxation and maintaining competitiveness in the face of these measures.

At the London meeting, CAST Director Deirdre Shurland set the stage by tabling two fundamental principles behind the Caribbean tourism industry’s position as it relates to climate change:

  • The fact that Caribbean tourism depends so heavily on the sustainability of its natural and environmental assets; and
  • The understanding that Caribbean countries should not be disadvantaged – and their development efforts should not be curtailed – as a result of mitigation efforts by industrialized, developed countries acting to curtail their own negative impacts on the environment.

Against this background, the CHTA-CTO position paper supports a strategy that is proportionate for developed and developing countries within carbon trading schemes.  “[The Caribbean] should not be penalized as the world’s major economic powers move towards curtailing their past, present, and future impacts on the global climate,” states the document, adding that every effort must be made to ensure that future consumer movements and government action do not deter potential European travellers from taking vacations in the Caribbean. Instead, “[they should] ensure that programs are established to demonstrate to consumers that they can balance the impacts of their travel to the Caribbean,” it says.

The CHTA and CTO joint position stressed the need to apply emission taxation schemes to all transport sectors, not just aviation, and it pointed to the potential consequences of transport services passing on the cost of carbon credits to the passengers, which could discourage long-haul travel to the region.

The CHTA-CTO position paper highlighted a few preliminary thoughts on schemes being explored to manage the carbon-emitting impact of the industry, while fostering the growth and development of Caribbean nations. They include:

  • Creation of carbon trading programs – whereby polluting businesses in the travel trade (such as airlines flying to the Caribbean, for example) can buy permits to emit carbon dioxide from lower emitters (such as eco-resorts or hotels with energy saving practices).
  • The establishment of a carbon emission verification system in the Caribbean – a structure to oversee the issue and trading of certificates and permits.
  • Development of a carbon trading hub – Both private and public sectors have stressed their commitment to work towards the long-term vision of the Caribbean region functioning as a carbon trading hub; where funds for regional development are generated through the trading of carbon permits. Some portions of these funds can be ploughed back into sustainable tourism and regional climate change mitigation programs.
  • Carbon offsetting programs – A way for individuals and business to become “carbon neutral”. Individuals would be able to pay to offset their proportion of the carbon emitted on a journey to the Caribbean and that money would go towards a carbon reduction scheme in the region.

It is our hope that the CHA an CTO Position Paper will serve as a template for replication in other Caribbean tourism markets, following the vision that the Caribbean comes to be seen as the travel industry leader in combating climate change,” concluded Deirdre Shurland.

The March 13th London meeting was organized by The Caribbean Council and co-chaired by Senator the Honourable Allen Chastanet, Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation for St Lucia and Chairman of CTO, and Peter Odle, President of CHTA, also included presentations from Dimitri Zenghelis, Senior Economist, HM Treasury; and Andy Cooper, Director General, Federation of Tour Operators (FTO).

CARICOM Visa for Cricket World Cup 2007

Late in 2006 it was announced that from 1st February, 2007 to 15th May, 2007, the countries involved in hosting events for the 2007 Cricket World Cup would be treated as a Single Domestic Space. This would apply to: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago.

It was notified also that Nationals of 11 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Ireland, Italy, South Africa, Spain, The Netherlands, United Kingdom, and the United States) and their dependent territories, as well as all CARICOM Nationals except Haiti, would not require a visa to visit the Single Domestic Space for Cricket World Cup 2007 or for any other reason. All other individuals would require a visa.

In response to concerns raised regarding this initiative by tour operators and other tourism industry stakeholders, the CHA arranged for the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Affairs & Development for Barbados, Mia Amor Mottley, to make a presentation at Caribbean Marketplace on the new visa regulation. The presentation took place on Sunday, January 14th, 2007, and provided travel trade partners with an opportunity to ask questions, express their views and in general better understand the reasons for the imposition of the visa requirement.

Regional Tourism Summit

In the midst of a global crisis in the travel and tourism business, following the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, a Regional Tourism Summit, held in The Bahamas in December 2001, where the heads of government tourism called for a long-range Master Plan for Tourism, was a step in the right direction after a 10-year hiatus since the last regional tourism summit. Another significant measure arising from the summit was the plan to revive advertising for the Caribbean as a region in the important USA market.

CHTA hoped that the Tourism Summit in The Bahamas would emerge as the beginning of a much closer relationship between the wider tourism industry and the policy makers of the region. In 2004, new CHTA President Berthia Parle MBE commended some Caribbean governments and registering her concern for the different levels of attention they pay to the Caribbean travel and tourism industry, at the annual meeting of the CARICOM Heads of Government. Parle called on governments to consider CHTA’s request for an Annual Tourism Congress with all Caribbean Heads of Government, Ministers and Directors of Tourism, and private sector leaders, to discuss and consider key policy recommendations and actions to advance a mutual interest in tourism. It is CHTA’s position that the industry, which is so vital to the future economic development of the Caribbean and welfare of its people, cannot, and should not, wait another 10 years for the next tourism summit.