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CARICOM, MASA Agreement to improve intra-regional tourism

Thursday, March 22, 2018

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GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) — The Caribbean Tourism Organisation's (CTO) aviation task force is working with intra-Caribbean carriers to ensure hassle-free movement and to boost connectivity around the region.

During a press conference at the 24th Inter-American Congress of Ministers and High-Level Authorities of Tourism on Thursday, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Secretary-General of the Barbados based CTO, Hugh Riley, explained that there are several items which need to be addressed before hassle-free travel around the regions is achieved.

He noted the task force has since been divided into four sectors to tackle these issues, which prevent intra-regional travel.

These include legal and regulatory concerns, safety and security issues, taxation and the high cost of airline tickets and the passenger's experience, which involves persons requiring a visa to travel.

“We are collaborating with the airlines and they are collaborating with us. The revised Multilateral Agreement Services Agreement (MASA), which CARICOM heads talked about in Haiti, is about to be a reality. Persons will see that significant progress is being made…not fast enough. Intra-Caribbean tourism is growing but still, more work needs to be done.”

On the subject of progress being made in connectivity around the region, the secretary-general indicated that regional travel has increased in 2017, however, more needs to be done. Riley said the CTO will continue its positive relations with the Caribbean carriers and other tourism authorities, to ensure seamless travel is guaranteed.

Meanwhile, CEO of LIAT Airline, Julia Jones said a recent study done by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), showed that intra-regional travel, especially in sub-regions, decreased by 30 per cent over the last decade.

The intra-regional component of tourism is an important part of generating economic growth. It is not a substitute for tourists coming from outside of the region, so the intra-regional travel and connectivity is part of what needs to be boosted to strengthen economic growth in the region.”

The LIAT CEO pointed out that airlines are critical in connecting countries and is, therefore, calling on government authorities to reduce taxes. “I challenge our Prime Minister to do what is right for the region as a whole and to make a start by reducing taxes by 25 per cent,” Jones said.

The aim of the Multilateral Agreement Concerning the Operation of Air Services within the Caribbean Community, (commonly known as the Multilateral Air Services Agreement) is to improve the level, quality and efficiency of air services within and beyond the Caribbean Community — CARICOM.

Recently, Heads of Government welcomed the new CARICOM (MASA) agreement and urged the Member States to take steps towards its implementation. The assent of all Member States to the new agreement would facilitate the creation of a liberalised environment consistent with emerging World Trade Organisation (WTO) aviation policies.

The instrument is aimed at improving connectivity and the facilitating increased trade in goods and services, including tourism.

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