Caribbean hoteliers stress importance of tourism in US-Caribbean relations

Caribbean hoteliers meeting in Miami are stressing the importance of tourism in United States-Caribbean relations, saying it is key to both sides’ interests.

Karolin Troubetzkoy, President of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association therefore, said that “the Caribbean must ensure issues of critical socioeconomic importance are firmly addressed with the U.S. Congress and the incoming administration.”

According to the group, Troubetzkoy commented on this during a presentation on the impact on the tourism industry of de-risking and correspondent banking relationships at the 40th Annual Conference on the Caribbean and Central America in Miami, produced by the Caribbean-Central American Action organization.

Underscoring the common interests between the Caribbean and the United States and the critical importance of tourism to the region’s socioeconomic development and stability, Troubetzkoy called for a “new focus” by regional governments and the private sector in support of recent legislation aimed at strengthening United States relations with Caribbean countries.

The two groups are urging the U.S. Senate to adopt the U.S.-Caribbean Strategic Engagement Act of 2016 (H.R. 4939), which has already received bipartisan support in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The bill this week moved out of U.S. Senate Committee for consideration by the Senate.

H.R. 4939, introduced by New York Democratic Congressman Eliot L. Engel with Florida Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, would require the U.S. Secretary of State and the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development to submit to the U.S. Congress a multiyear strategy focused on enhancing engagement with the countries of the Caribbean.

The draft legislation, which emphasizes energy security, countering violence, expanded diplomacy, engagement with the private sector, and other priority areas, “sets the stage for a new U.S.-Caribbean relationship,” said Troubetzkoy, who met with Engel during the conference.

Troubetzkoy also recalled a key U.S. policy, which underscored the special relationship between the United States and its Caribbean neighbors.

“We must also not forget the Third Border Initiative and our envoys must convey to the new administration that the Caribbean’s success is in the strategic interest of the United States of America,” she said.

“We spend a great deal of time focusing on challenges and opportunities in faraway places. But it’s important that we never lose sight of our interests closer to home,” Engel said.

“Indeed, we should be working to strengthen our ties with countries in the Caribbean,” he added. “That’s the aim of this bill, which would prioritize U.S.-Caribbean relations for years to come.”

Speaking on a panel on “Tourism, Trade, and the Unintended Consequences of De-Risking”, Troubetzkoy called for continued action on priority areas, such as “de-risking” or “de-banking,” in which large U.S. banks, sensitive to fraud and money-laundering allegations, end their business connections with smaller banks in other regions like the Caribbean.

Troubetzkoy said de-risking threatens the Caribbean region’s smaller banking sector, which operates in jurisdictions which host overseas banking facilities.

“For many hotels and tourism-related businesses in the region, there are limited banking options in their destinations,” she said, adding that “the Caribbean is suffering more than others from de-risking, as trade is affected directly.”

With tourism being the largest income generator in the region, Troubetzkoy urged the sector to be more alert to the threat.

“The Caribbean tourism industry must pay close attention to the very serious effects the withdrawal of correspondent banks would have on our industry,” she urged, stating that these long-standing banking relationships are “vitally important to the region” survival.

“If the industry is disrupted, and we are unable to interact with overseas buyers and clients, the consequences will be dire,” she warned.

The annual Conference on the Caribbean and Central America tackles issues which affect the region’s economic growth and competitiveness, and the hotel and tourism industry is at the front lines, and the ability to do business-as-usual in a competitive global market is critically important, according to the group.

More from Around NYC