George Town – The region’s institutions and governments must work together to offer an innovative tourism product that can support diverse economic activity and fuel economic growth, while also generating demand and enabling expansion, President of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) Dr Hyginus “Gene” Leon said.
Speaking at the fourth Caribbean Aviation Day on Wednesday, Dr Leon advanced some recommendations to combat the ongoing challenges of regional connectivity focused on the aviation industry.
Noting the commitment of states to address some issues related to regional travel, he indicated that greater investment in the sector is needed.
This investment, which he said should be comprehensive and sustained, will support broader efforts by the CDB and governments to increase economic resilience, strengthen trade and positively impact the lives of Caribbean people.
“There is only one problem that we need to solve and that one problem we can loosely define as sustainable livelihoods of the people of the region,” he said.
Dr Leon added that there was a need for investment in operational and other aspects of the travel industry.
He said this required appropriate financing mechanisms, which would accommodate the cycles of the aviation industry, the establishment of an enabling environment with the requisite multilateral agreements in force alongside the strategic development of the sector, and the institutionalisation of sufficient safeguards to ensure its sustainability.
During the session entitled, “Transforming Regional Connectivity: The Role of the Private Sector in Financing Intra-Regional Travel”, the CDB president emphasised the symbiotic relationship and importance of physical, digital, and cultural connectivity to the region’s resilience ecosystem.
“The solution of the whole is through connectivity … we have an immediate problem that needs to be addressed,” he said.
Dr Leon said Caribbean institutions must urgently treat with the issue of connectivity beyond throwing money at the problem, which he described as “a short-term fix”.
In advocating for a broader approach to enable industry-wide resilience in aviation and the region’s people, he pressed for broader initiatives beyond investment in aviation in the longer term, including the pursuit of innovative tourism, the provision of a more diversified product supported by an education system that will promote all areas of the sector and genuinely make tourism a pillar of development.
The CDB president said while reliable, cost-effective air transportation is vital for the Caribbean’s tourism and hospitality industries and economies, a new paradigm is necessary for viable, sustainable intra-regional air services.