One Caribbean

16 June 2006 6:00am

by Jose Carlos de Santiago

There are ever-clearer signals that the Caribbean is doing what´s in its best interest. The region´s two largest countries –that as a matter of fact rake in over 10 percent of the 42 million tourists who visit the Caribbean islands every year- are gearing up their hotel infrastructure to lure deep-pocket sunbathers. And they´re doing that without discarding the kind of visitors they have been welcoming up to now.

The Dominican Republic is looking to the American market as a potential clientele of high purchasing power that can be offered attractions the smaller Caribbean islands don´t have. The Dominican government has appointed a new tourism vice minister –Magali Toribio- who will personally and exclusively deal with the U.S. market.

If the smaller Caribbean islands don´t heed this wakeup call and they continue to get pounded by a streak of hurricanes, if they don´t go all out to make adjustments in their travel seasons and continue ruling out the European market –especially the Latin-origin nations- they are bound to go into a crisis that will surely leave them scratching their heads.

Lack of vision, absence from such major travel tradeshows as Spain´s FITUR, and the authorities´ scarce efforts to draw in Spanish investors to their islands are making the smaller Caribbean nations turn a blind eye to markets other than the United States. That´s their biggest problem. While countries like the Dominican Republic, Jamaica or Cuba are seeking higher-quality and best-price alternatives, the smaller insular territories of the Caribbean fall short of that far-reaching effort and remain bogged down in an American-oriented policy in which the need to keep prices up is the name of the game. That, of course, has a lot to do with U.S. investors´ policies that are a far cry from what their European counterparts –especially Spanish businesspeople- usually pursue.

If we take a closer look we´ll notice that Spanish hotel chains –most of them headquartered in Majorca- have implemented quality and price policies that allow them to run top-notch profitable businesses with excellent services, magnificent economic outcomes and very affordable prices for tourists.

Caribbean authorities, you must step up to the plate and stop being behind the competitive eight-ball. Take a look at the opportunities Spain has to offer as an outbound market and, above all, as a source of tourism knowledge and expertise in Europe. Bear in mind that Spanish hotel groups run one of the world´s best management systems. And don´t forget to swing by FITUR, a fair that can make you all reap amazing profits if you take the time to book a slot there in advance.

Try to get a newer, brighter future for the Caribbean. Open up the gateways and you´ll see this region vying with might and main in the travel industry.

Let´s work together to really build only one Caribbean.

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