Eastern Caribbean Currency Unions continues to have an advantage in tourism, says Sir K. Dwight Venner (Internet photo).

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – The eight Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU) nations must move to convert their “comparative advantage” in tourism into “a competitive advantage” according to governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, Sir K. Dwight Venner.

Sir Dwight, in response to a question during the ECCU Economic Review last week, said he did not think ECCU nations were investing too much of their limited resources into tourism development.

“The interesting thing about tourism is that it is the industry in which we have a comparative advantage. And, in fact, what we have to do is to turn it into a competitive advantage because, unlike all the other industries which are available to us, it’s the only one which provides us with tremendous linkages, both backward and forward,” Sir Dwight said.

He said that Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) ministers of finance at a recent meeting contemplated a cross-the-board approach to tourism. “So that I think that in terms of tourism, having had a natural advantage in that area, we should seek to see how we can diversify our sources of tourism,” he said as he identified, China, Brazil, and Latin American countries as places to which ECCU nations can look to for visitors.

“What is very interesting is that in our movement from primary production to tourism we have not gone through the industrial stage. And what I find interesting, as a researcher, is that not having been through that stage, there are some issues which we have to deal with, like workforce discipline, innovation, things of the sort,” Sir Dwight said.

“So, I think we have to see tourism as that particular catalyst for it,” he further stated, adding that “the issue” is that it is costly for each ECCU nation to sell its own tourism product. “… that is what the ministers of tourism have been addressing. … For us, tourism really poses the best prospects,” he said.

Sir Dwight said that tourism earnings across the ECCU in 2011 increased 4.6 per cent but was still below the levels registered before the global financial crisis began in 2008.

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