Antigua and Barbuda’s tourism minister hands over OECS Council chairmanship to Dominica

Tourism Minister Charles ‘Max’ Fernandez and Dominica’s Tourism Minister Denise Charles
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By Shermain Bique-Charles

[email protected]

Antigua and Barbuda’s Tourism Minister Charles ‘Max’ Fernandez has officially handed over the OECS Council of Tourism Ministers chairmanship to Dominica’s Tourism Minister Denise Charles, saying that his tenure has not been an easy one.

“As regards my tenure as chairman, it was very challenging, but because tourism coincided with the onslaught of Covid-19, we had one critical focus, which is to ensure safety protocols and get our economies back up and running,” Fernandez told those gathered at the 7th meeting of the OECS Council of Ministers of Tourism in Dominica.

Fernandez recalled that Antigua and Barbuda was the first country in the Caribbean to open up its borders, way ahead of the rest of the region and “for that matter, most of the world.”

Where tourism arrival is concerned, Fernandez told those gathered, that for 2022, the twin-island nation is projecting that numbers could return to where they were in 2019, or at least by seventy-five percent.

“We are close to reaching one hundred percent of where we were in 2019, which was a record year for us. Antigua and Barbuda depends on tourism more than any other of the Caribbean islands,” Fernandez said.

Meanwhile, the incoming chair, Denise Charles, said that one of her priorities will be centered around hospitality training.

“I am aware that a lot of work has gone into this at the regional level, but it is my hope to bring this back on the table for serious consideration and review of previous recommendations,” she said.

Denise also cited the urgent need to find solutions to the difficulties that islands are facing in intra-regional travel.

“Regional transportation is a critical matter, so it is a top priority on the agenda. We must lobby to make it easier to visit each other, to have training programs, and cultural exchanges, and to facilitate trade. We need to get back to the days when we could hop on one of the many daily flights connecting our islands with reasonable fares and schedules, connecting our island within the hour,” Charles added.

Dominica’s Trade Minister, Ian Douglas, represented Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit who could not attend the forum.

Douglas said that in an effort to dramatically transform tourism sectors in every country in the region, innovative product development is fundamental.

“It calls for rethinking, re-strategising, if we are to achieve our regional objective to achieve balanced growth and drive sustainable economic development. At the core of this goal is a concern for the progress of our people, because tourism is everybody’s business.

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