ON THE LEFT: Promote brand Caribbean


Everybody in the world knows the word Caribbean yet nobody owns it, so part of the mission that we have with the public and the private sector of the Caribbean is to begin to own the Caribbean brand and steer it in the best direction.
And the good thing about it is, brands are associated with certain types of products and we are fortunate that tourism and the Caribbean are associated. So we have the world’s best unowned brand that we want to own and it’s associated with the thing that’s most important in the Caribbean, which is tourism.
The Caribbean is the world’s most tourism-dependent region and it’s on the order of about 15 per cent of GDP but that rises to as much as 80 per cent in some of the countries, so you find that a substantial part of the economy of the Caribbean could not exist were it not for tourism. That’s why we continue to talk about it because we also believe that the potential has not been even achieved yet compared to what we can do.
One of the many things people forget is that tourism is unique in some respects. One of the unique things about tourism is that we have only one store on earth and people have to come to our store. So the cost to get to our store is part of the cost of my product and that makes us unique.
Second of all, because so many of us are islands, air transportation is critically important in terms of sorting it out. Understanding that part of the cost of my product is the cost to get there and then making it very easy and inexpensive for people to fly there are the kinds of problems that we have to overcome.
Imagine if you had, for example, within the United States a departure tax to go from Florida to Georgia and from Georgia to Alabama, and from Alabama to Tennessee, the United States economy would be a fraction of what it is.
And so part of what is the success of the United States is the ease with which people can move back and forth across borders.
Within the Caribbean we have set up the most incredible and complex set of impediments in terms of departure taxes and moving people around the region.
So step number one is let us begin to create this thing called the Caribbean by eliminating the cost of moving and making it much easier for people to move within the region.
Step number two is really for us to begin working more closely together in terms of advancing this Caribbean brand.
The Caribbean has more perceived value than any of the constituent countries; many of the countries don’t like to hear that, but it happens to be a fact. If we are part of something that people feel very good about and we are celebrating that, it’s going to be for the benefit of everyone.
So advance the Caribbean brand, make it easy and inexpensive to travel within the Caribbean and to the Caribbean.
If we achieve those two things, all of a sudden the value of travel and tourism in the Caribbean is going to be realized.
• Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace is a former Caribbean Tourism Organization Secretary.


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