WASHINGTON DC, United States, June 26, 2008 – Enrique De Marchena Kaluche of the Dominican Republic has assumed the presidency of the Caribbean Hotel Association (CHA), promising to raise the profile of the hospitality and tourism industry and dealing with the impact of airline service cutbacks.
The new head has also promised that the next two years will also see him focusing on human resource development of Caribbean nationals working in both hospitality and tourism, improving the marketing of the hotel industry throughout the region, integrating tourism into the economic chain on the islands, and reinvigorating both the Board of Directors and the national hotel association executives across the Caribbean.
“The first challenge will be the integration of the private sector for the success of the tourism industry in the Caribbean. At CHA, we are going to address this issue,” said the attorney who has been on the Board of Directors of Hotels and Restaurants Association of Dominican Republic since1998.
Mr De Marchena took up his new post during the just concluded first Annual Caribbean Tourism Summit here in Washington.
Goals for next two years
He outlined three specific goals which he said his administration would focus on over the next two years.
“First, we need to focus on the integration of tourism into the economic chain on the islands as we have millions of tourists buying vacations which include hotels, taxis, restaurants, shops and sightseeing attractions which all feed the wider economy of the islands,” he said.
“This benefit of tourist spending impacting into the wider economy is the relevance that needs to be conveyed to the people of the islands so that everyone understands the importance of these tourists and the dollars they bring to the economy.”
He said that recognition of the human resource development provided by the sector is also vital.
“Tourism business means jobs, not only in the hotels, but work for the taxis, the restaurants and the farmers and fishermen that fill the restaurants with food. It also means work for the seamstress and the crafts people and the shopkeepers, including all their workers, including the deliverymen as well as the trash collectors,” Mr De Marchena insisted.
“Tourism means business for all residents on our islands and we need to create a better understanding of this within our own communities. We need to raise the level of consciousness with our own residents and ensure that they can participate in the ownership and economic benefits of the industry,” he added.
“We need to make a statement to the world, to our politicians and to the general population of our countries that tourism feeds the economic chain and builds strength in the human resource development of our children.”
The third area of focus, the CHA president said, would be sustainable use of the Caribbean’s natural resources.
“There is just one chance to do it right with our natural resources. Once we incorrectly exploit them, they are gone. I once said and repeat it that Tourism Development and Environmental Sustainability are twin brothers – Siamese – and you can not operate without both of them; they have to stick together,” he insisted.
Mr De Marchena also pointed to the need for marketing the Caribbean as one brand.
“Over the last few years we have vastly improved our tourism infrastructure as well as our hotel product and we now need to come together under the Caribbean Brand as a region to improve the marketing of our hotels, the destinations and the region to increase the flow of vacationers to the Caribbean. It is interesting to note that the consumer sees us in the Caribbean as one region but we do not see ourselves through the same eyes,” he said.
Concern about airlift reduction
He however raised concern about the cuts in airlift from American Airlines and Air Canada.
“I am personally concerned with the decision by North American airlines serving the Caribbean to reduce service as a result of escalating fuel prices. With some 95 per cent of our tourism GDP (Gross Domestic Product) coming from visitors arriving by air, any significant reduction in the air service to our destinations is bound to have serious effects on our Caribbean economies which are more tourism dependent than any other region in the world,” he said.
“Over the past month, the principals of the Caribbean Hotel Association have been proactively meeting with CTO (the Caribbean Tourism Organisation) and tourism officials to analyse this matter and look for solutions that can work. CHA, along with CTO, will continue working closely together with our industry partners, the airlines, to address this issue head on in order to protect our tourism industry and its economic benefits to the region.”
The CHA head also praised the work of national hotel association executives across the Caribbean, at the same time indicating that he wanted to invigorate the associations across the region.
He said he would support association executives so that they can continuously drive the successes for each local hotel association and direct the CHA staff so that they implement programmes decided by the Board which are most suitable and make the most business sense for Caribbean hotels.