Chastanet, a former chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO), told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that the region’s tourism product is suffering from the television pictures of burning buildings, soldiers engaging gunmen in street battles and coffins containing bodies being splashed across the globe.
He said when visitors speak of coming to the Caribbean for a vacation, Jamaica is among the first set of countries that come to mind.
Chastanet said tourists view the Caribbean as a group of countries that are connected and “there are some people that are not able to differentiate one island from another”.
The security forces in Jamaica have been engaging gunmen loyal to Christopher 'Dudus' Coke, who is wanted in the United States on drug trafficking and gun running charges.
The authorities said that 73 people have been killed during the operations, but Coke, 41, the reputed leader of the notorious Shower Posse gang, remains at large.
Jamaican tourism officials this week reported that the violence could cost the island has lost an estimated US$350 million in revenue.
Chastanet said the Jamaica situation underscores the need for a regional tourism marketing development fund.
“It’s sad to say that we have not been able to reach a consensus on how to raise the fund. We may have to go back to the situation where we will create a brand and countries may voluntarily agree to participate.
“The reality is that a lot of budgets have been cut and at a time when we should have been trying to find resources so that we could move forward, we are cutting.”
Chastanet said countries that have been pumping money into the industry despite the global recession are likely to be among those benefiting most when the crisis ends.
“While we may not see the benefits in the next year and a half, but as soon as the world’s recession starts coming to an end, the people that would have done that kind of ground work would be the ones to benefit immediately,” he added.