By Makeida Antonio
Antigua and Barbuda will make history next year by hosting a major tourism conference billed as a key networking event to exchange industry trends and opportunities.
The Global Tourism and Hospitality Conference will be hosted by the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) and affiliate member the Antigua and Barbuda Workers Union (ABWU) in April 2023.
The ITF connects almost 700 affiliated trade unions, representing nearly 20 million people from 150 countries across the world.
A group of regional and international partners paid a courtesy call to Prime Minister Gaston Browne on Monday and another to Labour Minister Steadroy Benjamin yesterday.
ITF Latin America and the Caribbean Regional Secretary Edgar Diaz from Panama will be spending a total of three days in Antigua walking through site tests in various hotels and meeting with local bodies representing workers.
Diaz said this was a huge step in recognising the work being done by the ABWU and its display of regional leadership and solidarity in the labour movement.
“It is a huge step for ITF to recognise [Massiah’s] work and what represents the whole Caribbean’s theme within the ITF.
“It is a good opportunity to see how we operate, how the trade union movement is operating in a pandemic era, and it is a good position for us in the region to develop our work in other countries,” he said yesterday during a press conference.
ITF Tourism Section Chair and Sub-Regional Coordinator for the Caribbean, ABWU General Secretary David Massiah, said the conference is significant to highlight the global challenges and concerns in the tourism industry.
“It is clear that as the Chair of this global section within the ITF that the recognition is shown and given to Antigua and Barbuda and what better place for it to happen?
“Tourism is our main industry so we have an opportunity to examine, reflect, review how it is working and how the workers are treated within this particular sector,” he said.
Massiah identified the limited movement of people as one of the new challenges to be navigated within the tourism sector.
Various workers across the hotel and transportation industries, including tour operators, have been affected over the last two years due to lockdowns and a subsequent reduction in disposable income.
“Since Covid, we have seen a total transformation that has impacted transportation workers not only just in Antigua, but all over – even at the seaport, the airport, the taxi service because, obviously, it impacted the cruise ships.
“That is an impact for us – those workers within the transport sector,” Massiah highlighted.
Massiah also used the feedback received from prospective workers in Antigua and Barbuda and Trinidad and Tobago who recently attended the Royal Caribbean cruise company’s job fair as one of the reasons why they needed to create a standardised framework for the hospitality sector across the region.
“We want to ask our international body how can we help to create what we call a general agreement to ensure that workers from Antigua, Trinidad or throughout [the Caribbean] are governed by conditions that are fair and are not given less favourable conditions to work with,” he added.