Caribbean Unity? What a Joke – Tourism Missteps

Go Lean Commentary

A house divided against itself, cannot stand. – 16th US President Abraham Lincoln

This Dead President – the Savior of the American Union – is right! A homeland cannot have unity, harmony or leverage if it is divided.

Being divided, things go from “bad to worse”.

For the Caribbean, despite the 30 different member-states, it is really just one house; we are all in the “same boat”, so then, we can think of it as the same “house boat”. 🙂

As a region, we are divided!

Why are we so dysfunctional in this regard?

One clue: Lack of war.

Wait, what?!

Yes, the opening comment by President Lincoln was uttered in the build-up to that country’s Civil War. In addition, the model that the Caribbean should be emulating, that of the European Union, was only possible after all the devastation and losses of World War II. Yes, this is a human reality:

Only at the precipice do people change.

This commentary declares that despite a lack of war, our Caribbean region is at “the precipice”. We have already suffered disasters, abandonment, insolvency and corruption. The only thing we have been spared, compared to other communities that were forced to unite, is the “blood on the streets”. (Though there are some that assess our uncontrollable crime problem as “blood on the streets”). So why have we not succeeded in any unification movement?

We have tried, but we only have failure to show for our efforts.

This is the focus of this series of commentaries on Caribbean unity – make that disunity. This first one – entry 1 of 4 in this series from the movement behind the book Go Lean … Caribbean – is in consideration of the “misstep” in our societal attitudes – defects – that prevents us from collaborating and partnering together. We do not reform nor transform like other communities; we do not confederate nor consolidate; we somehow think that we are better than our neighbors and can survive alone – “Its Better in …

The commentaries in the series are cataloged as follows:

  1. Caribbean Unity? What a joke – Tourism Missteps
  2. Caribbean Unity? – Ross University Saga
  3. Caribbean Unity? – No Freedom of Movement in/out of French Antilles
  4. Caribbean Unity? – Religion’s Role: False Friend

All of these commentaries relate to “how” the stewards for a new Caribbean can shepherd unity in this region. But first we must accept that Caribbean Unity is a joke.

Ask anyone! Most people do not even realize that the full Caribbean region is 42 million people. Why is this surprising?

There is no unity!

Our primary outreach to the world – tourism – is a competition among the islands, rather than a collaboration. The fastest growing segment of Caribbean tourism is the cruise industry; and they are banking on our disunity, playing one port-of-call against another – to our peril. This charge of disunity is not just our movement’s complaint alone; no, even many government leaders lament this actuality. Consider here, this news article which asserts the same premise:

Title: Tourism can bring Caribbean together
Press Release:–  Tourism has enormous potential to promote Caribbean regional integration. So said Jamaica’s Tourism Minister, Edmund Bartlett who, at the time, was addressing the 54th annual general meeting of the St. Lucia Hotel & Tourism Association, which was held Friday (June 20) at Harbour Club St. Lucia. He was the featured guest speaker at the AGM.

“The Caribbean is the most tourism-dependent region in the world,” said Bartlett, adding, “The sector generates investments and jobs for all the islands and supports overall economic growth through critical sectoral linkages. The tourism sector, by its very nature, also promotes some of the main values of regional integration as tourism involves the close contact and interaction of millions of individuals from diverse cultural, ethnic, racial, socio-economic and national backgrounds working together for mutually-beneficial exchanges.’

Describing the tourism sector in the Caribbean as “cutting across many spheres, sectors and boundaries,” Bartlett characterized the sector as “a shared model of development for the region,” and one that shares a special place among Caribbean states.

“The sector thus provides considerable scope for collaboration and cooperation among many stakeholders at the regional level in a wide range of areas including; investment and product development, human resource development, tourism awareness, research and statistics, access and transportation, regional facilitation, environmental and cultural sustainability, marketing, communications and addressing crime that involves visitors,” said Jamaica’s tourism minister.

Bartlett buttressed his assertion by noting that CARICOM leaders attending the 29th Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM held at Port-au-Prince, Haiti in February 2018 had acknowledged tourism as the Caribbean’s largest economic sector and declared that it needs to be “stimulated urgently and sustainably for the region’s long-term development prospects.”

Bartlett further noted that at the 39th CARICOM Heads of Government meeting held in Jamaica July 2, the regional leaders in attendance reaffirmed their commitment to the effective implementation of the CSME, which is aimed at facilitating the expansion of investment and trade in goods and services, and the free movement of people across the region.

“Tourism is also a catalyst for promoting the successful implementation of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) framework which has been the leading initiative developed by CARICOM to promote regional integration,” he added.

Moreover, tourism could become a catalyst for increased intra-regional travel and a value-added component to diversify the region’s tourism product and spread the benefits of tourism across the region, said Bartlett. “Intra-regional tourism provides vast economic exchange and opportunities for the regional economy that would have otherwise gone to countries such as the USA, Canada and England. This form of inward-looking tourism is also a very practical approach to reversing the over-dependence of the region’s tourism sector on international markets,” Bartlett added.

Citing the recent signing of the Multi-lateral Air Services Agreement (MASA) by CARICOM heads as one of the region’s most noted successes in the promotion of intra-regional tourism, Bartlett said it could help to make travelling within and beyond the Caribbean much easier. The MASA is aimed at creating a liberalized environment that is consistent with emerging WTO aviation policies.

“It is anticipated that the full implementation of MASA will improve connectivity and facilitate increased trade in goods and services, including tourism. MASA has been expanded to include the conditions for a single security check for direct transit passengers on multi-stop intra-Community flights,” said Bartlett.

In addition, he said the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s (CTO) aviation task force is currently working with intra-Caribbean carriers to ensure hassle-free movement and to boost connectivity around the region.

These include legal and regulatory concerns, safety and security issues, taxation and the high cost of airline tickets and the passenger’s experience, which involves persons requiring a visa to travel,” said Bartlett.

He suggested the development of a regional tourism rating or classification scheme as yet another way of deepening regional integration through tourism and enhancing the visitor experience, provided common standards and criteria could be agreed upon and the scheme is furnished with adequate resources and managed effectively and impartially

“Such a scheme could ensure a level of quality assurance for visitors and stimulate product and service quality improvement through the objective benchmarking of visitor facilities and service standards,” said Bartlett.

Bartlett also envisions the “economic convergence between complimentary economies” in the Caribbean through tourism as another way of deepening regional economic integration, citing this as an emergent perspective in the region.

“The suggestion was that there were better opportunities for growth through a more rational approach to economic integration between geographically proximate, complementary economies linked to much-improved transport infrastructure. This was not meant to replace CARICOM but to be a new route to economic convergence in the Caribbean basin.”

Bartlett acknowledged, however, that there are a number of obstacles that must be overcome in the quest to establish a sustainable regional tourism sector.

“It is no secret that there remain several impediments to the development of a sustainable regional tourism sector, including: the general lack of emphasis and promotion of intra-regional tourism at national levels, the prohibitive cost of intra-regional travel, continued restrictions to free movement and insufficient harmonization and coordination in the area of disaster risk management.”

The Caribbean’s vulnerability to climate change constitute another of the threats” to the region’s tourism sector, said Bartlett, stressing that these issues necessitate sophisticated resilience mechanisms and crisis management systems.

“Indeed, it was this spirit of regional cooperation that led to the recent conceptualization of the Caribbean Disaster Resilience Centre, the first of its kind in the region, which will be established at the University of the West Indies Mona,” he added.

Bartlett concluded by urging the Caribbean states to work together in order to take full advantage of tourism’s vast untapped potential to promote the sustainable development of the region.

“We must thus find common ground on a number of issues and strengthen our cooperation in a number of shared areas to ensure that tourism development truly brings us together,” he added.

Several government officials attended the SLHTA AGM, including Prime Minister Allen Chastanet, Minister for Tourism, Dominic Fedee, Minister for Agriculture, Ezechiel Joseph, Minister for Infrastructure, Stephenson King, Minister for Home Affairs, Hermangild Francis, and Minister for Health and Wellness Mary Isaac. Also present were Mayor of Castries, Peterson Francis, Parliamentary Representative for Castries South, Ernest Hilaire, several private sector executives and members of the diplomatic corps.

— END Press Release

About the Saint Lucia Hotel and Tourism Association (SLHTA) 
The Saint Lucia Hotel and Tourism Association (SLHTA) is a private non-profit membership organization [that provides sound and dynamic leadership for its members; it functions as the principal intermediary for tourism service providers and an influential lobby for tourism development issues].

Source: Posted July 31, 2018; retrieved August 22, 2018 from:

As related in the foregoing, these words by the Jamaica Tourism Minister ring loud:

“The tourism sector … promotes some of the main values of regional integration”

What a joke!

Don’t get it twisted! There is no Caribbean integration. We all think there should be; but we all acknowledge that such a construct does not exist. This fact has been proclaimed time and again by the movement behind the book Go Lean…Caribbean – available to download for free. Just recently, this previous blog-commentary asserted the need to unite after natural disasters:

… this is a matter of image and geographic misconceptions, more so than it is about disasters or even tourism. The world is telling the Caribbean: Better band together to assuage your challenges. We are united in affliction, we might as well be united in solutions. Yes, it is no longer optional for our region to confederate as a Single Market.

Confederation is not a bad thing!

Tourism is the current dominant industry; the goal is to “stand on the shoulders” of previous accomplishments, add infrastructure not possible by just one member-state alone and then reap the benefits. Imagine this manifestation in just this one new strategy: inter-island ferries that connect all islands for people, cars and goods.

The movement behind the book Go Lean … Caribbean seeks to reboot the economic engines of the Caribbean member-states. So while tourism is the region’s primary economic driver, the status quo is inadequate for providing the needs of the people in the region, and inadequate for dealing with the challenges of nation-building. We must do better! We must collaborate and not compete.

The Go Lean book serves as a roadmap for the introduction and implementation of the Caribbean Union Trade Federation (CU). The CU is designed to be a technocratic intergovernmental entity that shepherds economic growth for the full Caribbean region and mitigate against related security challenges. The goal is to use this new regional focus to reboot and optimize the region’s commerce or economics; plus the aligning security and governing engines.

The Go Lean/CU roadmap will employ strategies, tactics and implementations to impact its prime directives; identified with the following 3 statements:

The Go Lean book provides 370-pages of turn-by-turn instructions on “how” to adopt new community ethos, plus the strategies, tactics, implementations and advocacies to execute so as to elevate the Caribbean’s tourism product, across the full region. The book features anecdotes and Case Studies assessing the integration among Caribbean member-states, or the lack there of. One anecdote introduces the non-government organization (NGO), the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association and their plea for integration strategies. See this except from that anecdote in the book (Page 60):

Anecdote # 9 – Caribbean Strategy: Hotel & Tourism Association

Hotel Association urges Caribbean governments to take action…
By Caribbean News Now – Published on August 31, 2010 MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica — Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association President Josef Forstmayr has called for urgent action by all Caribbean governments for a sustainable cooperative marketing and promotion fund and regional integration and removal of barriers for intra-Caribbean travel. …..Forstmayr also quoted Robert Crandall, former Chairman of American Airlines, who remarked at the annual Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Investment Conference (CHTIC) in May [2010] with, “The Caribbean is uniquely dependent on tourism. Everyone involved in travel and tourism knows that our industry is immensely important to the world economy, generating and supporting – either directly or indirectly – about one in eleven jobs worldwide.”


Here in the Caribbean, it is even more important. On a number of islands, travel and tourism accounts for more than 50% of all employment, and on some islands for more than 75%. Overall, about 20% of Caribbean employment is travel and tourism dependent – something on the order of 2.5 million jobs.”


Crandall also urged that “travel and tourism should be at the center of our collective consciousness since the Caribbean is more dependent on travel and tourism than almost any other region. Of the 10 countries in the world most dependent on tourism, seven are in the Caribbean.” …

[Forstmayr] noted that American Airlines’ Robert Crandall “told us that 18 years ago in 1992, at a meeting held in Kingston, the Caribbean heads of government agreed to collaborate in a partnership with the private sector to organize and sustain – the key word is sustain – a regional marketing fund. However, despite substantial private sector contributions from CHTA and our members in 1993 which resulted in a regional advertising program and a 10.4% increase in visitor traffic to the Caribbean, governments cannot agree on a sustainable funding mechanism for a regional marketing program now.”

A tactic the book seeks to optimize is the promotion of the regional tourism product – think; island hopping (see Appendix), universal customs clearance, foreign gateway airports – by enabling such a promotion-administration role-responsibility into a Cabinet level department. This is described in the book as follows on Page 88 with the section title:

D. Commerce Department

D1 – Tourism and Film Promotion and Administration
This department will work in conjunction with the Tourism Promotion arms of each member states (not exclusive); the same too with film, video, and media productions. There is the opportunity to exploit regional tourism efforts like cruise ships, conventions, island hopping, foreign gateway airports, and excess inventory marketing. This agency will also spearhead a Regional Language Translation 24-hour Call Center to accommodate the needs for any foreign visitors in the region.

Imagine island hopping like this – see Appendix VIDEO

… flying into one Caribbean airport – i.e. St. Martin in the Leeward Islands or Montego Bay in Jamaica – and receiving a “Customs Clearing” for all 30 Caribbean member-states. Wow! This is Free Movement of People, a benefit of a Single Market.

The Go Lean book explains that there is the need for better stewardship of the economic engines on these touristic islands. There are obvious challenges to being on an island – it is what it is! Optimizing island life was an original intent of the Go Lean roadmap. The opening Declaration of Interdependence stresses this (Page 11) with these pronouncements:

iii. Whereas the natural formation of the landmass for our society is that of an archipelago of islands, inherent to this nature is the limitation of terrain and the natural resources there in. We must therefore provide “new guards” and protections to ensure the efficient and effective management of these resources.

iv. Whereas the natural formation of the landmass is in a tropical region, the flora and fauna allows for an inherent beauty that is enviable to peoples near and far. The structures must be strenuously guarded to protect and promote sustainable systems of commerce paramount to this reality.

vi. Whereas the finite nature of the landmass of our lands limits the populations and markets of commerce, by extending the bonds of brotherhood to our geographic neighbors allows for extended opportunities and better execution of the kinetics of our economies through trade. This regional focus must foster and promote diverse economic stimuli.

The Go Lean movement has previously detailed many related issues and advocacies for regional tourism promotion and administration. Consider this sample of previous blog-commentaries: Industrial Reboot – Cruise Tourism 2.0 – Offering a Glimpse Industrial Reboot – Regional Tourism 2.0 – Middle Markets Targets Industrial Reboot – Culture 101 – Tourism & Culture “Together” Industrial Reboot – Lottery 101 – A local Raffle could be Win-Win! Regional Tourism Coordination – No Longer Optional Regional Tourism Plan: Attract more Snowbirds The Need for Better Stewardship for Caribbean Air Travel Increasing Tourism Market Share Lessons from Colorado: Common Sense of Eco-Tourism Loose Lips Sink Ships – The Dangers to Tourism from Hate Speech What’s Next for Tourism Stewardship Being On Guard for Violent Threats to Tourists Cruise Ship Commerce – Getting Ready for Change Disney World – A Role Model for Touristic Self-Governing Entities Preparing for the Sharing Economy –vs- Hotel Rooms Tourism’s Changing Profile

The Caribbean has a problem. So many of our people flee their beloved homelands. The reasons they leave are defined as both “push” and “pull”. Pull refers to the perception that there are better economic opportunities abroad, so our citizens are lured or pulled to make a living elsewhere.

The reasons people leave is not just because “they are pulled”. Sometimes, they are pushed as well. This refers to our people fleeing in search of refuge. Economic refuge is perhaps the largest reasons why our citizens have abandoned their beloved homelands – a 70 percent brain drain rate has been reported among the professional classes. Since the economics of the region is principally based on tourism, we understand this cause-and-effect. Yes, for a primary industry, we sure do have a lot of defects in our business model. We have a “divided house” and the divisions are evident and obvious.

We must do better! We must start by working together … with our fellow Caribbean neighbors. We must collaborate and cooperate, not just compete. This is our only hope for future survival. Plus, we have role models in history to emulate; (US Civil War & Post-WWII Europe).

So we must reform and transform the Caribbean’s societal engines so as to elevate our tourism product. The simple functions of a regional tourist packages/customs clearance is not “a bridge too far”. Yes, we can!

This is the quest of the Go Lean roadmap. These practical measures are conceivable, believable and achievable.

All Caribbean stakeholders – governments and citizens alike – are urged to lean-in to this roadmap for change … and empowerment. We can make our region a better place to live work and play. 🙂

Download the e-Book of Go Lean … Caribbean – now!

Sign the petition to lean-in for this roadmap for the Caribbean Union Trade Federation.


Appendix VIDEO – Island Hopping the Caribbean Islands: Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao Adventures –

Marko Roth // World Traveller
Published on Jul 8, 2016 –
Explore the mind blowing beauty of the Caribbean! The crystal clear waters with dolphins and turtles, the island hopping to Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao in small airplanes and the friendly locals made our time in the Caribbean worthwhile. We went scuba diving with dolphins, went sailing in the blue ocean and explored stunning caves. Read the full story on…

Check out all the details of our adventure on…

Category: Travel & Events

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