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Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association President Josef Forstmayr doesn’t shy away from expressing his opinions. Forstmayr has deep roots in tourism; the former president of the Jamaica Hotel Association is currently the managing director of Round Hill Hotel & Villas, one of Jamaica’s most luxurious resorts. Forstmayr raised the temperature during a press conference at the 15th Annual Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Investment Conference in Montego Bay, Jamaica, with the following passionate remarks.
“We are recovering from one of the worst global economic downturns in history, and I can tell you that the Caribbean hotel industry weathered the storm and is enjoying renewed interest and the benefits of pent-up demand for our brand of warm-weather vacations,” said Forstmayr. “However, there are challenges and we remain vigilant in our job to protect and preserve our industry.”
Forstmayr posited that affordable air service remains one of the Caribbean’s biggest challenges and observed that airlift is one of the top three items on developers' lists when researching investment opportunities.
“It is time that all Caribbean governments and the entire private sector get off our collective butts and work together to get over this hurdle,” Forstmayr said. “We need more regional integration, less visas, more airlifts, less taxation and, I urge once again, that our country, Jamaica, takes the lead to establish funding for a regional marketing campaign. Not accepting this clear message will simply lead to no new investors coming to the region, present investments will dry up and go bust, and existing industry will continue to under-perform. The time to act is now.”
Forstmayr also drew attention to the CHTA Tourism is Key advertising campaign, which highlights several important facts about the importance of tourism in the region. The campaign notes that travel and tourism directly and indirectly employs more than 1.9 million people in the Caribbean, which accounts for one in every nine jobs. The pillars of the "Tourism is Key" campaign are advocacy with governments and citizens, linkages of tourism into local industry, agriculture and services, regional integration —improved airlift and less bureaucracy for regional travel — and regional marketing.
In his remarks, Forstmayr quoted Great Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron who said: "For too long, tourism has been looked down on as a second-class service sector. It's fundamental to the rebuilding and rebalancing of our economy. It's one of the best and fastest ways of generating the jobs we need so badly in this country."