Hugh Riley, Secretary General and Chief Executive Officer at the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), the region's tourism development agency, and eight member countries, along with representatives Chris Lehane, Bruno Lewicki and Shawn Sullivan from Airbnb, the leading community driven hospitality company, met last week to discuss Airbnb's growing presence in the region and to address areas of mutual cooperation as outlined in an agreement signed in February 2017. The topics of discussion included democratizing the tourism industry, the importance of the Caribbean region's cultural heritage and how Airbnb is expanding economic opportunities in the region.
The CTO and Airbnb were joined by senior government representatives from Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada and Nevis. Under the MoU's areas of cooperation, Airbnb and the CTO will share aggregate data and research with policymakers about the positive impact of the sharing economy in the region; explore new ways to make the sharing economy more inclusive; educate members and other stakeholders on the sharing economy and home-sharing in particular; inform stakeholders of the value of peer-to-peer review mechanisms; and develop a set of policy principles and recommendations. This effort will seek to market the Caribbean as a region: One Sea, One Voice, One Caribbean.
The Minister of Tourism of Belize, Manuel Heredia, explained that one of his concerns is the availability of official data on the impact of Airbnb on the accommodation sector, including the percentage of visitors who stay in Airbnb-listed properties. "If we work together and we have control over it, this will be something positive for the Caribbean and for Belize. My technical team will collaborate with Airbnb to make sure that we learn as much as possible in order to establish the proper regulations so this works in a beneficial way." added Mr. Heredia.
Currently, there are 41 thousand listings across the Caribbean and a typical host in the Caribbean earns approximately US$3,900 per year.
According to the CTO, the sharing economy is being driven by the consumer who is deciding with their pocketbook what they want to do and where they want to stay when they visit the Caribbean. "It is our responsibility to speak with Airbnb and the other players in the sharing economy sector to get the maximum benefit from this phenomenon", said CTO Secretary General, Mr Hugh Riley, "We've been talking about safety and security, we've been talking about standards, we've been talking about policy, we've been talking about economic impact. Those are factors that we were able to cover and we are extremely happy for the level of interaction between our members and Airbnb" he pointed out.
Shawn Sullivan, Public Policy Director for Central America the Caribbean, stated that this was an important meeting between Airbnb and the CTO and its members. "We view this as the first step in building a lasting partnership that will democratize travel, create thousands of entrepreneurs and allow a greater segment of the Caribbean to truly benefit from tourism. The tourism industry is rapidly changing and travelers are putting a premium on having unique experiences and being able to live like a local."Curacao Chronicle