The Caribbean is predominantly a safe place for visitors.

This assessment came from Commissioner of Police, Darwin Dottin, as he delivered an address yesterday at the just concluded Caribbean Tourism Organization’s (CTO) Leadership Strategy Conference, at the Hilton Barbados.??

Under the theme: How Secure are the Caribbean’s Borders? Mr. Dottin said that the region was "generally safe" but acknowledged that "risks are not static and they required constant monitoring and review and the introduction of control measures".

??He added that risk management was crucial in helping to determine the probability and consequences of a threat, and how it should be addressed.?? Commissioner Dottin noted that while crime presented a difficult challenge for the tourism industry in the region, perception of the situation was quite different from the reality.

"Even though some countries in the Caribbean are challenged with murder rates, if you look at our arrival data, there are few visitors that lose their lives…when you compare us to different regions of the world, the rate of fatality is quite low.?? So it’s not only about dealing with actual crime, but also dealing with the perception of crime in the region," he stressed.

Executive Director of the CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPAC), Lynne Anne Williams, spoke about her organisation’s current efforts to ensure travel safety in the region, emphasising that intelligence sharing and integrated border security systems were essential.??

"We now have integrated databases and watch lists; we have excellent productive, functional relationships and integration of the authorities across the region. Immigration and customs now work more closely together at the national level, and across the region there is a forum that brings them together a few times a year to discuss relevant issues. The same thing happens for the military and police and ….intelligence chiefs," she said.

The CARICOM IMPACS Executive Director added that self service gates would be available in some CARICOM member states by year-end. Ms. Williams also mentioned a proposed Immigration Charter, which is aimed at standardising the treatment of arriving passengers region-wide, with the hope of eliminating discrimination and improving the level of hospitality.??

"Training has taken place in several member states, where 172 officers have been trained in the past 14 months to focus on accommodating or preparing ourselves for the CARICOM Single Market and Economy," the official stated.

This emphasis on facilitating effective security, whilst ensuring positive traveller experiences, was further articulated by Air Service Development Manager for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, Don Fields.

He identified the ???Going the Extra Mile’ or GEM Program, (a problem resolution initiative which came into effect for Washington Dulles airport last year), as a good example of traveller care.?? Mr. Fields explained that airport personnel – from concession stand employees to customs and airline officers – were trained to assist travellers with some of the common issues they faced, in an effort to provide holistic, customer care.

Secretary General of the CTO, Hugh Riley, agreed that, like security, hospitality was crucial for the tourism industry in the Caribbean.

He said: "…a comment was made by Robert Crandall (former Chairman and CEO of AMR Corporation and American Airlines)…that sometimes when he comes to the Caribbean, he gets the feeling that we would rather he didn’t come.?? That’s a pretty searing indictment….that’s something that has to be fixed."

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