Roseau – Tourism ministers from the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) meet on Thursday in Dominica.
They will discuss a wide range of issues affecting the tourism sector in the sub-region, including air transportation.
“We are very pleased that after two years of COVID that we are hosting a major regional meeting, which is the seventh meeting of the OECS Council of Tourism Ministers,” Dominica’s Tourism Minister, Denise Charles said. “It’s a hybrid meeting because we have some challenges with travel.”
Charles, who will take over the chairmanship of the Council, said intra-regional travel will be the priority agenda item, noting that since the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic “regional tourism has dropped by over 65 per cent, and it is a slowly recovering market for us in the Caribbean”.
“It is something we would like to see restored, and our challenges have been air access to destinations,” she said, giving an as example, her recent visit to Antigua & Barbuda, a 30-minute flight from Dominica.
“The proposed itinerary was for me to go to Miami, and it was actually taking me two days to travel to Antigua. which is a 30-minute flight away from Dominica.
“So it’s a serious matter, and we are hoping to forge a path to see how we can discuss with the current regional airlines that have been set up during the pandemic and to see what solutions we can put forward to resolve this issue.”
Charles said the issue of training will also be discussed during the meeting, recognising that tourism is a “major pillar for most Caribbean islands, and many of them are dependent on tourism for their survival”.
“We believe we can learn from each other and Dominica is an upcoming destination … and on the agenda is the discussion for the establishment of a regional hospitality institute … so we can deliver in all our destinations five star quality service,” she said.
The OECS groups the islands of Antigua & Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, St. Kitts & Nevis, Montserrat, Anguilla, and the British Virgin islands.