ANTIGUA: St. John’s Antigua; April 21, 2016, The Official Opening Ceremony for the 3rd meeting of the OECS Council of Ministers for Tourism was held on Thursday in Antigua and Barbuda at the World renowned Sandals Grande Antigua.
Host Minister for Tourism and chairperson Hon. Asot A. Michael delivered the welcome address centered around the theme for the one day meeting entitled 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. Minister Michael said such 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.
Minister Michael stated that creativity, innovation, and moving towards a harmonized platform characterized by joint tourism development and promotional efforts in the OECS are instrumental if the region is to truly maximize and diversify its tourism offerings: “We must be proactive, we must foster development while at the same time accede to factors of ecological and sustainable concerns.”
The Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Minister 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 Dr. Didacus Jules, reinforced 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.
Dr. Jules noted that 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 discussed at Thursday’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 formed part of the agenda.