Published On: Tue, Sep 26th, 2017

World Tourism Day: Tourism moving forward

We have to make a choice to take a chance or our sector will never change.

Chata-1160WILLEMSTAD - On September 27th, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) celebrates World Tourism Day. As an important player within the tourism sector and advocate of sustainable tourism development CHATA would like to take this opportunity on World Tourism Day to elaborate on the importance of tourism for Curaçao and how we can achieve sustainable tourism development.

The tourism industry of Curaçao is not having its best moments. While the rest of the world including the Caribbean have recorded growth in tourist arrivals, Curaçao has not.  Year to date we have recorded a decrease of -13% in overall visitors to the island. This decrease can be partially attributed to challenges that the industry has encountered such as the loss of airlift from the Caribbean, South American and North American market due to Insel Air, the economic and social turmoil in Venezuela, the uncertainty and now loss of airlift from Germany with Air Berlin and lack of necessary funds to invest in the different markets as the Tourism Master Plan 2015-2020 prescribes.

Surely, Curaçao is not the only destination coping with challenges. What then might be the reason that other destinations have proven more resilient towards challenges than Curaçao? CHATA strongly believes that the answer lies in the lack of awareness of the importance of tourism, lack of vision and ownership.

The tourism sector is globally recognized as one which is able to spearhead growth and improve the quality of life, provided that the destination has a vision for the development of tourism that is endorsed by the whole community. Despite all of this, it often seems as if Curaçao does not regard the tourism industry as one of high potential. The industry is often forgotten and trivialized as something that only benefits a few. Initiatives from the tourism sector struggle to find adequate and timely funding. Our education system does not pay proper attention to tourism. Regulation to penalize those who litter and damage our natural resources, our pride and glory, is also not a priority.

This takes us to our second issue, the lack of vision and collaboration to execute the vision for tourism development on our island. Tourism development does not happen in silos. Tourism requires an integrated approach where the country as a whole has to determine where it would like to be in a couple of years and what measures should be taken to achieve this goal. Tourism does not happen in a back room in the tourism board. Tourism and its future is determined by the actions of all our ministers, government employees, business owners, employees and overall citizens. Tourism is not only marketing, but also spatial planning; what areas should be developed and how, investment in education; what skills and languages should we be able to master in order to cater to our visitors, what kind of support industries do we need to develop in order to support the growth of the sector and how we can create synergies between the current industries on the island to grow as a whole.

Finally, vision can only be determined with the presence of a strong leader. This is crucial for building alignment around the sectors goals and in guiding behaviors and decisions to reach them. The sector has been without leadership for a couple of years. Since the beginning of the year CHATA has been advocating for a CEO for the Tourism Board and restructuring of the Curaçao Tourism Development Foundation in order to fill this leadership void.

In order to achieve a turnaround in the tourism sector, we have to implement the 3 C’s of life. We have to make a choice to take a chance or our sector will never change. We need a structural change in the way in which we approach the sector. CHATA has been advocating since the start of the year for important changes which we believe will jumpstart the industry and its development. CHATA has been urging for the appointment of a visionary leader for CTB whom will be able to unite all the stakeholders within the sector behind a common vision. Also CHATA has been advocating for the restructuring of the Curacao Tourism Development Foundation to include representation of the private sector and the establishment of a level playing field for all business within the tourism sector.

Looking forward, CHATA is cautiously optimistic for the future as some important stakeholders in the government are starting to acknowledge the importance of the aforementioned. The Minister of Economic Affairs, Dr. Steven Martina has repeatedly acknowledged the importance of leadership for the Tourism Sector and agreed to appoint a new CEO for the Tourism Board as well as a restructured Curaçao Tourism Development Foundation starting 2018. In addition to this CHATA in partnership with the Minister of Finance, Ministry of Economic Development and CTB are in constant dialogue on how to achieve a level playing field, a different approach towards destination marketing and Air Service Development for Curaçao which will enable sustainable tourism development. Small changes perhaps, but ones who will ultimately lead to big progress.

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