Jamaica Observer / GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) — The Secretary General of the Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), Hugh Riley, says there needs to be a removal of the barriers to entry around the Caribbean to improve connectivity. “Intra Caribbean tourism is critical, but that has to work hand-in-glove with connecting people who want to come into a particular catchment area of the Caribbean and enjoy the benefits of intra-Caribbean tourism,” Riley said. “So, the whole business of twin destination or multi-destination tourism has to be properly explored and has to be properly implemented. This means we have to fix the connectivity,” said Riley, who is attending the 24th Inter-American Congress of Ministers and High-Level Authorities on Tourism (CITUR) that ends here Thursday. Riley is expected to address the two-day event of the Organization of American States (OAS) later on Thursday on the topic of Building Resilience in the Tourism Sector in the Americas. Earlier, a senior official of the Trinidad-based Caribbean Airlines (CAL) said the Americas remains challenged by the misuse of connectivity to support sustainable tourism. Captain Jagmohan Singh told delegates to the Congress that he “hopes that through the discussions and many strategising meetings to come, that we might overcome the scourge as I do believe aviation is indispensable to Caribbean tourism.” The CAL acting chief executive officer said that air travel to and from the Caribbean is expected to double over the next 20 years, with the market growing from 43 million passengers per annum in 2015 to 86 million in 2035. Singh said the biggest Caribbean markets are expected to maintain their relative importance over the next two decades with just a few countries swapping positions within the top ten. “The Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Cuba are poised to be the top three markets” in the region,” he said, emphasising the importance of air travel to the tourism industry in the region. “In many markets over 90 per cent of the tourist arrive by air to the Caribbean. It is critical at this time that symbiotic relations are created among all stakeholders being airlines and destination countries.” “I know there may be some doubt as empirically the Caribbean, south and Central American countries have not been the essential model of connectivity and multilateral cooperation.” However he said “Caribbean Airline remains optimistic that there is an agency such as our airline which can aid in bridging the remaining gaps by providing not only the physical act of transportation by the sense of inter connectivity through mutual agreements and cooperation.” He said while 2017 may have been a challenging year for the Caribbean and parts of north America, “It is reassuring to know that despite the logistic and atheistic challenges which arose from unforeseen natural disasters, arrivals to the region reached an unprecedented record of 30.1 million stay over visitors.” Along with a visitor expenditure of over US$37 billion US dollars. Guyana’s Minister of Business, Dominic Gaskin told the Congress “we see tourism as a viable means of alleviating poverty”. Gaskin said sustainable tourism is the only option for securing long-term benefits from this particular economic activity and pledged Guyana’s commitment to ensuring the development of the region’s tourism industry. “So, for us, this conference is an important platform for our own development agenda but more importantly we understand that the future of the Caribbean and Guyana is integrally connected to the future of the Americas, and we are keen to play a part in developing the bigger picture,” Gaskin said. Executive Secretary of the Secretariat for Integral Development (SEDI), Kim Osborne said the Congress has presented an opportunity for cooperation and collaboration for the enhancement of the region’s tourism product. “This conference enjoys the good fortune to have in its midst ministers and higher-level authorities of tourism of the majority of OAS member states as well as representatives of the private sector and civil society groups and academia. Together we have the opportunity to advance cooperation and collaboration to adopt concrete plans to better connect the Americas and pursue our collective development objectives”, Osborne noted. Further, Osborne said that the ‘Declaration of Georgetown’ document, an anticipated end result of the congress, will form the basis for the development of partnerships for the growth of the tourism industry in the Americas. “I believe that these efforts can build on the legacy of 2017 as the international year of Sustainable Tourism for economic development and propel and enhance the role of tourism, within our countries. The ‘Declaration of Georgetown’ you will consider during this conference will be the document to outline this pact. The OAS will be your partner and we will continue to support the efforts of member states to realise this mandate,” the Executive Secretary said.