US VIRGIN ISLANDS (Aug. 15)—”Despite today’s prevailing economic conditions, Caribbean tourism is on the rebound,” declared the head of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO).

Speaking to Caribbean ambassadors accredited to the European Union at a recent forum in Brussels, Beverly Nicholson Doty, chairman of the CTO, said: “Last year, we saw a region-wide 5.4 percent increase in stay-over arrivals, a 3.6 percent increase in visitor expenditure, a 7.1 percent increase in room occupancy and a 4.8 percent spike in the average room rate while revenue per available room jumped 12.4 percentage points.”

She reported that the CTO was determined to ensure its commitment to keeping sustainability at the forefront of economic development policy, “something we know resonates particularly with European visitors.”

While the Caribbean has long been a leader in tourism, she asserted, “We cannot rest on our laurels; we have to keep refreshing our product. We are one of the world’s most desired destinations, but the time has come for us to put our heads together and up our sustainable tourism development plan to ensure we remain in the lead.”

Nicholson-Doty, who serves as commissioner of tourism of the United States Virgin Islands, said marketing funding was required to adjust marketing strategies, “and I am sure that by working together as partners, we will emerge with approaches and policy directions we can report back to the people of our region.”

With Official Development Assistance on the decline, she called for a mechanism to delineate the purposes for which the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) and other development funds can be used with regard to the needs of the Caribbean and to rationalize the distribution of the funds by institution.

To make it easier for policymakers and practitioners, she suggested “a dynamic dashboard should be established to monitor the use of the funds, as well as the benefits which have accrued to the Caribbean. But more importantly, we need to lock arms to determine how we can unlock EPA and other development funding allocated to the Caribbean.”

Nicholson-Doty reminded the envoys that tourism was central to development, “and given our acute vulnerabilities, to the likes of natural disasters and the global economy, as small-island developing states, countries and territories, we need funding to increase our resilience and to boost our competitiveness.”