By Gay Nagle Myers
CHARLOTTE AMALIE, St. Thomas —
While Apple Leisure Group has a long-term commitment to the Caribbean, its
CEO, Alex Zozaya, warned last week that
challenges exist that require a coordinated
effort among all Caribbean countries to
maintain a healthy relationship.
In his keynote at the Caribbean Tourism
Organization’s (CTO) annual State of the
Industry Conference here, Zozaya pointed
• Fragmented regulations and lack of
continuity in policies “that scare investors.”
• Taxation and investment barriers “that
• Barriers to visitor access (“Mexico is a
good example of a country that has moved
to successfully address visa regulations”).
• Bad statistics and late data.
• The lack of a comprehensive energy
“The Caribbean needs to step out of its
comfort zone, be pragmatic and run tour-
ism like a business,” Zozaya said. “It cannot
afford the levels of bureaucracy that now
exist. Put the political agendas aside, and
you will move faster.”
He pointed out that the Caribbean re-
gion has proximity to the most important
tourism market in the world, the U.S.
“Other destinations would kill for that,”
he said. “I don’t see why the U.S. alone
cannot provide the 30 million visitors a
year that the region has set as its goal by
Yet he also cautioned that the perception
among many travelers is “blurry” regarding
“When you try to sell the whole Caribbean, the differences between islands are
lost; it becomes a blend,” he said, adding
that a greater focus is needed on preserving the heritage, culture and people of the
region and on offering travelers authentic
experiences on each island.
“Our Caribbean footprint is large,” he
said. “We want this region of the world pre-
served for generations to come.”
Aviation taxes came under fire in an
earlier address by Peter Cerda, IATA’s re-
gional vice president for the Americas, who
warned, “These taxes make the islands less
competitive with other destinations.”
He singled out Jamaica, where the air-
ports in Montego Bay and Kingston recent-
ly proposed an increase of more than 100%
in airport taxes.
“Governments have to foster positive business environments through consultation with
the industry and transparency in order to ensure win-win situations for all,” Cerda said.
He predicted that each $1 increase in
ticket tax could result in 40,000 fewer passengers, $20 million less in tourist spending
and 1,200 fewer jobs.
Airlines, he said, are expected to net $18
billion in profits in 2014, which “might
sound impressive, but on revenue of $746
billion, this is equivalent to a net profit
margin of 2.4%, or $5.42 per passenger.”
What’s more, when it comes to Latin
American and Caribbean destinations, the
airlines are expected to earn $1.1 billion,
which translates to a profit of just $4.21 per
passenger and a net margin of 3%.
In other developments, Richard Sealy,
minister of tourism and international
transport for Barbados, was named CTO
chairman for a two-year term. He succeeds
Beverly Nicholson-Doty, commissioner of
tourism for the U.S. Virgin Islands.
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Apple Leisure CEO outlines Carib’s challenges in CTO keynote
Apple Leisure Group CEO Alex Zozaya during his keynote at
the CTO’s State of the Industry Conference.