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OECS gives serious consideration to intra-regional travel matters

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Contact: Raymond O'Keiffe


Thursday 19 May 2011  Chairman of the Council of OECS Ministers for Tourism, Honourable Richard Ricky Skerritt says the OECS is considering strategic mechanisms to stimulate intra-regional travel, so as to facilitate easier movement of people across the region.


The move comes in the wake of significant declines in intra-regional travel since 2008 which has negatively impacted the viability of the indigenous small hotel sub-sector in the OECS.


Speaking to the media at the end of the 10th Council of OECS Ministers for Tourism meeting, Minister Skerritt indicated that discussions were held on the possibility of reducing departure taxes as an incentive for  encouraging intra- regional travel.


“Ministers actually spoke to matters to do with intra-regional travel which was a term used, and one of the incentives is to reduce the departure tax regime for intra-regional travel; in other words looking seriously at the possibility of having lower taxes for intra-regional travel so that we do everything we can to lower the actual cost of air travel.

“We are very, very serious about the concern that there has been a decline in intra-regional travel and the need to do everything we can collectively to stimulate such travel back up to pre 2008 levels and above.”


Stimulating intra-regional travel is listed as one  agenda item for a possible meeting of OECS Civil Aviation and Tourism Ministers.


The chairman of the Council of OECS Tourism Ministers, who also chairs  the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) and is also the Minister for Tourism in St. Kitts and Nevis, says several factors  could have influenced a noticeable decline in intra-regional travel.


“We made it clear that we do not believe  that you can point a finger at one airline and say that is the reason why intra-regional travel is down.  We may be able to say that that is a contributor, but we felt that it had also to do with the availability of disposable income for Caribbean people in light of very difficult economic circumstances. We also felt it had partly to do with some very genuine issues regarding cost, including the cost of fuel and other operating costs but we also felt that our Caribbean islands have to do a better job of attracting the interests of Caribbean people to visit their neighbours.”


On other matters related to travel within the OECS, the ministers agreed to propose, for the consideration of the OECS Authority, a deadline of December 1, 2011, for facilitation of seamless intra-regional travel for yachts visiting the OECS single marine space, within the context of the OECS Economic Union.


As a vital step in achieving this objective, ministers agreed that they would convene meetings with customs and immigration personnel to agree on the adoption of business-friendly border control arrangements, consistent with the goal of achieving hassle-free travel.

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