Newly installed CTO chairman and Bahamas Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe told a news conference Friday that while the Caribbean was still monitoring the effects of Brexit, apart from the decline in value of the pound sterling, there was no other significant impact.
“The truth is that the numbers seem to be going up. Now what happens in the future we will have to wait and see but so far people are still traveling, and tourism remains one of the most resilient industries in the world.
“So we have not seen any decline thus far but obviously we are playing attention to it and continue to monitor,” he told reporters.
Wilchcombe, who succeeds Barbados’s Minister Of Tourism and International Transport Richard Sealy, will serve a two-year term. It is his second stint as chairman, having previously been elected to the position in 2002.
He said that a lot of work was being done on the Brexit issue as there has been an “excellent collaborative effort between CARICOM and CTO and others to deal with the issue.
Sealy, while confirming that his country was the leading source market for visitors out of the United Kingdom, said while there was no decline in arrivals, BREXIT affected the value of the pound and brought with it uncertainty over the future of the market.
However he told reporters that in itself was not new as Barbados has always had to live with fluctuating UK currency.
“When the UK is your source market you would know the pound is fickle and with our dollar pegged to the US currency we have had to live for some time now with the fluctuations. So while it is still at a record low, you never know it might still go to a record high.”
“I am not going to say that our attitude to this is necessarily one of flippancy to the whole Brexit issue, we understand that things are in a period of flux and the meantime we are trying to strengthen what we are doing in the UK, but we still see the encouraging signs, the commitment from the tour operators, the airlift is still there and we are happy about that,” Sealy said.
He said the CTO was also keeping an eye on the air passenger departure (APD) passenger tax introduced by the UK government even while the region was able to neutralize the comparative advantage held by the United States.
“When they were in Band B, we were in Band C now we are all in band D and this has brought down the rate for children as family travel was particularly impacted by it.”
He said that while the APD was around for a while it’s was the rate that evoked concerns, and the Government’s will continue to monitor it and ensure that their voices are heard at West Minister.
Sealy said there was also lingering concerns that across the channel European countries were embolden by this effort and were planning to introduce APD style taxes as well.
“That remains a concern so we will be keeping an eye on countries Berlin, Paris and other European capitals,” he added.
The two other Caribbean markets that rely heavily on visitors from the UK are Antigua and Barbuda and Grenada, while the USA is the major source market for most of the other CTO member states.
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