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Travel and tourism stakeholders from the wider Caribbean diaspora recently attended a meeting in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) to discuss the critical importance of regional tourism.

The USVI Department of Tourism held a breakfast presentation for industry stakeholders and the general public which was chaired by Tourism Organization (CTO) Chairman Senator Ricky Skerritt, who is also the St. Kitts and Nevis minister of Tourism and International Transport.

Theme of the conference was “There’s Never Been a More Crucial Time in Caribbean Tourism” which was held at the Marriott Frenchman’s Reef and Morning Star Resort.

The high-level talks come on the heels of the Department’s Strategic Visioning Retreat, one of the steps in developing a rolling five-year tourism development plan.

Antigua

Antigua Civil Aviation Minister John Maginley has indicated that Antigua and Barbuda will continue to leave the door open for low-cost carrier REDjet to resume flights to the island.

He was speaking against the backdrop of reports that the Trinidad and Tobago government has revoked the licenses it granted to the Barbados-based airline, effective March 30, 2012.

Reports indicate that the Barbados Civil Aviation Department also sent correspondence to REDjet recently in which it disclosed plans to suspend the Air Operators Certificate it had issued to the airline.

“We have not withdrawn it (nor) have we considered doing it,” Minister Maginley said in a short statement on the matter to the Observer Media.

REDjet’s decision to suspend its operation announced on March 16 affected its Antigua to Guyana service that was introduced last November as well as its Antigua to Barbados service that was due to start in June.

The Trinidad and Tobago Civil Aviation Authority said its decision was based on the actions of Barbados.

Grenada

Chairman of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDC), Kenrick Fullerton, recently appeared in a Grenada court on four fraud charges.

He has been charged with two counts of forgery and two counts of uttering forged documents one week after he returned from the United States.

Fullerton was elected NDC chairman during the party’s 2011 convention despite protests from political leader, Tillman Thomas, who felt that his role as a contract civil servant did not allow him to hold a political office. He has since resigned as adviser to the minister of sports.

Fullerton made his first court appearance at the Grenville Magistrate Court and the matter was adjourned until next month.

Guyana

A judge has dismissed rape charges against Guyana’s commissioner of police.

Chief Justice Ian Chang gave the ruling recently saying prosecutors did not have sufficient evidence for the case against Henry Greene to go foward.

Greene had previously obtained a court order that temporarily barred the police from charging him with the offence.

He was sent on leave in December after a 34-year-old woman accused him of raping her at a hotel in late November and said officers refused to take her complaint.

The police chief has denied the allegations and said the sex was consensual.

Chang said prosecutors could file new charges if they found more evidence in the case.

Guyana

Doctors and lawyers are among those in the higher income bracket guilty of not filing taxes.

And the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) intends to crack down on these tax evaders.

GRA Commissioner Khurshid Sattaur said categories of professionals guilty of this practice included doctors, lawyers, accountants, pharmacists, land surveyors, dentists, civil engineers and architects.

He said that there were more than 530 people in such professions required to pay practicing and serving fees which were due at the end of February.

According to reports, of the more than 300 doctors,less than 35 comply and less than 20 of the over 105 lawyers comply in taking out a practitioner’s certificate.

Sattaur warned that the commission will be putting steps in place to deal with defaulters this year.

Haiti

The United Nations mission in Haiti is worried that a scarcity of resources will prompt a further scale-back on services to Haitians who were made homeless after the 2010 earthquake.

UN official Nigel Fisher said in a statement that a request last year to international donors for US$382 million only brought in 55 percent of that amount. That has led to the withdrawal of services in the camps that house thousands of people displaced by the earthquake.

The world body is now hoping to receive US$53.9 million for the upcoming rainy season, which has begun to soak Haiti’s capital at night.

The Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake devastated Port au Prince and other cities in the south.

St. Vincent

Three Trinidadians were each sentenced to nine years in jail on charges of possession of 472 pounds of marijuana and attempting to export the illegal drug on May 24, 2011.

Desmond Pavy, 42, Jovel Espenoza, 22, and Terry Bannister were found guilty by Justice Frederick Bruce-Lyle in the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court in Kingstown recently.

The men were held after their pirogue was intercepted by the Coast Guard in the north of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Coast Guard officers retrieved the marijuana, which was thrown overboard.

In passing sentence Justice Bruce-Lyle said, “the appropriate sentence I see is nine years on each count, to run concurrently.”

The court also ordered that the boat engines and other items attached to or found inside the boat be forfeited.

Trinidad

The Airport Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (AATT) will increase its Passenger Service (formerly Departure Tax) from TT$100 to $200, effective from June 1, 2012.

Transport Minister Devant Maharaj said the decision to hike the tax was taken by the AATT board on Feb. 2.

He noted that the last increase was 10 years ago.

Maharaj said the increase was small compared to the prices people paid for visas and airline tickets.

In 2008, the Departure Tax was replaced by the Passenger Service charge on each individual travel ticket with the exception of tickets issued to those individuals who were exempted from the payment of the tax under the existing law.

Maharaj said the increase was to fully recover the cost of the provision of security at the international checkpoints.

Compiled by Azad Ali

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