ST THOMAS, USVI -- The head of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) has called on the region to work together to ensure the Caribbean remains one of the world's leading destinations.


Delivering the keynote at the annual general meeting of the US Virgin Islands Hotel and Tourism Association earlier this month, CHTA president Karolin Troubetzkoy noted that, while Caribbean destinations are very different, they share many of the same challenges – from the impact of climate change to the high cost of operations.


Troubetzkoy, who is the executive director of operations at St Lucia's Anse Chastanet and Jade Mountain resorts, believes a collective resolve is needed, leveraging the strength of diversity and the commonalities of the region's countries and territories to fulfill tourism's true potential. 


She pointed to the some of the issues many regional destinations are facing, such as improving intra-regional travel, the high costs of airlift to the region as well as importing food, taxes and the growing activity of the sharing economy.


Troubetzkoy indicated she is encouraged by recent movements towards greater public-private sector collaboration to address the region's tourism competitiveness and development. 


She cited a recent presentation by CHTA and the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) at the CARICOM Intersessional meeting where the leaders gave the green light to the organizations to draft a plan for submission to the CARICOM Summit in July for a "sustained region-wide tourism development and marketing initiative."


Quoting from a recent CTO report on the industry's 2016 tourism performance, Troubetzkoy observed that while the Caribbean reported its seventh consecutive year of growth with an increase of visitor arrivals by 4.2 percent and a total of 29.3 million stay-over visitors to the region, that growth was unevenly distributed, with Cuba and the Dominican Republic being the primary beneficiaries.


Similarly, despite the increase in visitor arrivals, many regional hotel properties did not experience a successful 2016, as measured in terms of key performance indicators such as Occupancy, ADR (Average Daily Rate) and RevPar (Revenue per Available Room).


Underscoring the need for integrated regional approaches, Troubetzkoy reminded attendees that the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) expects the Caribbean region's tourism share to decline from 2.1 percent to 1.7 percent by 2030.


The CHTA president issued a call to tourism professionals across the region to work together to make their destinations more competitive on the global market: "We also must keep an eye on the many international tourism destinations out there that perform better than us – destinations that have been able to offer 5- and 6-star products at a cost that probably would buy a 3- or 4-star holiday in the Caribbean."


She called for stronger partnerships between the public and private sectors at the destination and regional levels to tackle the difficult issues of increased airlift, air travel costs, taxation, improved inter-regional connectivity and figuring out together how to price products more competitively in the global marketplace: "Our discussions may be uncomfortable and sometimes heated but they must take place because, in the end, we are in this together."


Pointing to the rapid growth of the alternative accommodations sector through online platforms like Airbnb, she asserted: "Rather than fighting the trend we have much to gain by working with (them) to find ways of cooperating for the benefit of our visitors, our dedicated hoteliers and tourism professionals, as well as our hospitable citizens who are willing to share their homes with visitors from abroad, and from within our destinations."


Key issues related to the sharing economy's participation in the hospitality industry include the need to ensure safety and security for guests, and to establish policies that require the home-stay community to make a reasonable contribution to each destination's infrastructure maintenance and construction costs.


Noting that people are key to competitiveness, Troubetzkoy urged destinations to develop and fine-tune "every aspect of our customer service experience, enhancing our product itself – whether we are talking about availability of real, authentic Caribbean cultural and culinary offers, locally made products or renovated and enhanced hotel accommodations that have taken into account changing customer expectations."



None of this can be achieved, she declared, without well-trained and informed people in the sector: "We have to ensure we are training people who will continually improve our product as they make fulfilling careers in tourism, and we need to also provide these stalwarts of our sector with continuing education and training. Because, let's face it – our landscapes, adventures and beaches will draw travelers to our shores – but it is our Caribbean people who will keep them coming back."

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London (CNN) The UK government has formally served divorce papers on the European Union, signaling the beginning of the end of a relationship that has endured for 44 years.

Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, confirmed that the UK had triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, beginning a legal process that must end in two years' time with Britain leaving the EU.

"This is an historic moment for which there can be no turning back. Britain is leaving the European Union," May told the House of Commons in London.

A few minutes earlier in Brussels, the British Permanent Representative to the EU, Sir Tim Barrow, delivered a six-page formal letter of notification to Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, in Brussels.

"The Article 50 process is now under way, and in accordance with the British people, the United Kingdom is leaving the European Union," May said.

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(V. I. Consortium) ST. CROIX — A declining cruise line industry, developments in the airline and stay-over markets, as well as a new slogan for marketing the Virgin Islands were all discussed during Legislature meetings on Tuesday at the Frits E. Lawaetz Legislative Conference Room in Frederiksted. Department of Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty, gave testimony to update the activities of the department.

The key issue discussed was the development and maintenance of the tourism product within the Virgin Islands. According to Mrs. Nicholson-Doty, visitor cruise line arrivals is estimated to drop 11 percent through 2018. She said that although there was an increase in calls on St. Croix, the overall arrivals on St. Thomas had been declining.

“Unfortunately, cruise traffic has not registered the same growth as overnight visitors. The USVI has had a significant reduction in calls in 2016 and this trend is projected to continue through 2018,” said Mrs. Nicholson-Doty.  Cruise traffic in St. Thomas is projected to decline by 11 percent through 2018, while St. Croix is expected to see an increase of 48 percent over the same period. But the overall drop will still be about 11 percent, as St. Thomas registers the lion’s share of cruise traffic.

According to the commissioner, St. Thomas received 535 calls in 2016; is expected to receive 489 calls in 2017, and 478 calls in 2018. There were 25 calls on St. Croix in 2016, which will increase to 37 in 2017, and by 7 more to 44 in 2018.

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(Barbados Today) The controversial multi-million dollar sale of the state-owned Barbados National Terminal Company Limited (BNTCL) to regional petroleum products giant Sol has been stopped in its tracks by two legal challenges mounted by Sol’s competitor Rubis Caribbean.

The High Court last Friday granted Rubis an interim injunction until April 3, 2017, throwing a spanner in the works of Government’s plan to beef up the dwindling foreign exchange reserves, which had fallen to a 14-year low of 10.3 weeks of import cover as of the end of last year.

Rubis had lodged an application for a judicial review, challenging the inclusion of a 15-year moratorium clause in the agreement between the Freundel Stuart administration and the Sir Kyffin Simpson-led Sol for the US$100 million merger, which the Fair Trading Commission (FTC) is currently probing to determine whether or not it should be approved.

The clause prohibits the construction of another oil terminal in Barbados, as well as the granting of licences for the storage of fuel, aviation fuel and jet fuel for the commercial and industrial purposes.

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(Reuters) Tech giant Samsung Electronics plans to sell refurbished versions of the Galaxy Note 7 smartphones, the company said late on Monday, signaling the return of the model pulled from markets last year because of fire-prone batteries.

Samsung's Note 7s were permanently scrapped in October after some phones self-combusted, prompting a global recall roughly two months after the launch of the near-$900 devices.

A subsequent investigation found manufacturing problems in batteries supplied by two companies - Samsung SDI Co and Amperex Technology.

Analysis from Samsung and independent researchers found no other problems in the Note 7 devices except the batteries, raising speculation that Samsung will recoup some of its losses by selling refurbished Note 7s.

A person familiar with the matter told Reuters in January that it was considering the possibility of selling refurbished versions of the device or reusing some parts.

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