The holiday season offers an ideal opportunity to pause and reflect on our many blessings and to give thought to what lies ahead. As we navigate the hustle and bustle, I encourage all of us to recognize that we have so much for which to be thankful.
We in the Caribbean are privileged to live in the most purely beautiful and desirable region on earth and we count among our many blessings some of the world's most welcoming and talented people.Ours is a fascinating region of 40 million people with a rich cultural and historical diversity, integral to the attractiveness and enjoyment of the product we package and sell.
Today, we continue to face a challenging global economy " a condition that, of course, has a ripple effect on all who live, work and play in the Caribbean. We all know only too well that the tourism industry worldwide is still facing the toughest battle that any of us have ever seen. The world economy isn't yet on a steady, sustained path of recovery. Unemployment in our major source markets is still high, cutbacks are still contemplated, and high taxation is still a threat. The United Kingdom's Air Passenger Duty (APD), with its potential to further erode our market share, also remains a serious concern for the region, so the CTO and our partners are determined to continue that fight.
In fact, the environment in which Caribbean tourism functions remains quite fluid. The impact of instability on the price of oil, and therefore on the price of a vacation and everything else; the adverse effect on consumer confidence; the unwillingness to travel at certain times, to certain places, or the decision not to travel at all, are all triggered by the turmoil which has gripped the world in recent times. And yet, I'm happy to report that interest in, and passion for the Caribbean remain high, evidenced by the fact that arrivals are expected to have grown between 4 and 5 per cent by the end of this year.
Many of our member-countries and their accommodation sector are exploring new markets while seeking to upgrade and refresh the product, providing additional reasons for guests to return and for first-time visitors to experience the delights we have to offer. As we face the year ahead we must continue to work tirelessly to enhance the revenue from tourism, to keep our business profitable and our people employed. To achieve that, we know we must keep a steady focus on constantly improving the quality of the experience we deliver.
On behalf of the Council of Ministers and Commissioners, the Board of Directors, Members and Staff of the Caribbean Tourism Organization, I wish you a Happy Holiday, a Merry Christmas and a successful 2012. We look forward to partnering with you in the year ahead and to earning your support as the global voice for Caribbean tourism.