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Caribbean Mourns the Passing of John Bell, CHTA’s First Leader



FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) is mourning the passing of John Bell, its first executive director, and the guiding force of the association (formerly CHA) for close to three decades.

Under his dynamic and pioneering leadership, the association framed the key role of tourism in the economies of the Caribbean and elevated the organization from its status as a traditional trade association to being the premier tourism organization for the Caribbean’s private sector.

In addition to establishing a comprehensive footprint for the association and bringing together the hotel and tourism associations across the region, Bell is credited with driving membership of, and interest in, the work of CHTA.

He guided the creation of Caribbean Travel Marketplace, the region’s premier marketing and networking event, which brings together buyers and sellers of the region’s tourism products and services; the Taste of the Caribbean culinary event; the Leadership Conference for National Hotel and Tourism Association executives; the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Investment Conference; the Caribbean Hotel Industry Conference (CHIC); Caribbean Gold Book; Caribbean Alliance for Sustainable Tourism (CAST), the region’s pioneering environmental organization; Caribbean Hotel Training Institute (CHTI); as well as what is now known as the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Education Foundation (CHTAEF). Bell’s vision and leadership were instrumental in developing these programs, each of which was a pioneering initiative at the time and helped to shape, strengthen and grow the industry and the association’s membership.

Most of these initiatives continue to benefit the industry today, serving as a lasting legacy to Bell’s work, according to CHTA President Nicola Madden-Greig, who asserted that it was on the shoulders of giants like John Bell that the CHTA grew to be seen as a key player in the sustainable development of tourism in the region and around the world, as evidenced by his election as President of the International Hotel & Restaurant Association for 2003-2005.

John Bell (left) was an integral member of the Caribbean Hotel Association team in its earliest days. Also pictured here are Pat Shillito, CHA’s first employee (center), and Tony Mack, 1980 CHA President and Executive Director of CHTI.

Vanessa Ledesma, Acting CEO and Director General of CHTA, remembered Bell, who was honored with CHTA’s Icon of Hospitality Award in 2019 and the 2022 CHRIS Lifetime Achievement Award, as harboring a passion for the development of national hotel and tourism associations along with membership.

“During his tenure, visits to member destinations were key, and he made connections with members on the ground. He was a true association executive but foremost he was a leader who laid out the vision and path leading to the establishment of CHTA as the regional voice for the private sector,” said Ledesma, who described Bell as an effective leader and Caribbean ambassador.

Frank Comito, CHTA’s former CEO and Director General, pointed to Bell’s contribution to his own development, describing him as a visionary who made pioneering contributions in areas from sustainable tourism and marketing to education and training over the decades. “We have lost but we have gained,” said Comito, who noted that “if I can name the top five most influential people in tourism, public or private sector and its development in the Caribbean over the last 50 to 60 years, John Bell is in there unquestionably.”

The Trinidad-based Bell, prior to his leadership of CHTA, was President of the Trinidad and Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association (1971-1974); General Manager of Bel Air Hotel in Trinidad (1967-1974); and Assistant Manager of Blue Lagoon Hotel, St. Vincent (1964-1967). He began his tenure at CHA in 1974 as the first executive director and chairman of the Small Hotels Advisory Council.

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THE HOUSE WHITE: Vice President Kamala Harris to Return to Charlotte, NC June 12



On Wednesday, June 12, Vice President Kamala Harris will return to Charlotte, NC for the fourth stop on her nationwide Economic Opportunity Tour. This will be her fifth visit to the state this year and her 13th since being sworn in.

During each stop of the Vice President’s Economic Opportunity Tour, she is highlighting how the Biden-Harris Administration has built economic opportunity, supported communities, and delivered historic investments for the American people. This includes making unprecedented investments in small businesses, creating a record number of jobs, and increasing access to capital for underserved communities. It also includes erasing medical debt, forgiving more student loan debt than any administration in history, boosting investments in education, making housing more affordable, lowering child care costs, and increasing the wealth of American families.

Vice President Harris launched her Economic Opportunity Tour in April with a moderated conversation in Atlanta, GA. She continued it last month with a speech in Detroit, MI and a moderated conversation in Milwaukee, WI. She is being joined along the way by Administration officials, members of Congress, local leaders, and small business owners.

The Vice President was last in Charlotte back in April to announce $20 billion in Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund grants that will mobilize private capital and deliver clean energy and climate solutions. In March, she was in Raleigh with President Biden to highlight their ongoing work to lower prescription drug costs, protect Medicare and Medicaid, and fight for reproductive freedom. Vice President Harris also visited Black Wall Street in Durham to announce investments in strengthening entrepreneurship, increasing access to capital, and supporting small businesses. She began 2024 by visiting Eastway Middle School in Charlotte to announce $285 million in funding to help schools across the nation hire and train mental health counselors.

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Today, President Trump’s Campaign, together with the RNC, announced a massive $141 million fundraising haul in May, a response of support for President Trump while facing the sham Biden trial and verdict that outraged and motivated Americans from every walk of life. This overwhelming financial success is the result of over 2 million donations, A RECORD, which came in at an average of $70.27. In addition to the staggering amount, 25% of May’s donors were brand new to the 2024 campaign, making the month the best ever recorded for any Campaign in History. Additionally, organizations supporting President Trump raised another $150 million in May. Taken together, the Campaign, and other Trump supporting organizations, raised almost $300 million during the month of May alone, ALSO A RECORD!

“We are moved by the outpouring of support for President Donald J. Trump. The American people saw right through Crooked Joe Biden’s rigged trial, and sent Biden and Democrats a powerful message – the REAL verdict will come on November 5th,” said Trump Campaign senior advisers Chris LaCivita and Susie Wiles. “President Trump raised $141 million in small donations alone this month because Americans remember the Roaring Economy, Secure Border, and Peace through Strength at home and abroad under President Donald J. Trump, and want us to return to prosperity and success when he is re-elected in November.”

This total comes after the Campaign raised $53 million online in the 24 hours - 37.6% OF THE TOTAL HAUL AND MORE THAN $2 MILLION PER HOUR – since Crooked Joe Biden and his New York henchmen secured their rigged verdict in hopes of swaying the election.

“The American people saw the Biden Trials for what they are, a Political Hoax and Election-Interfering attempt to keep President Trump away from voters and confined to a freezing courtroom, THE ICEBOX. Based on these record contribution numbers, and Polling, it didn’t work because voters understand the clear contrast between Donald J. Trump’s record of success, and Joe Biden’s failures,” said RNC Chairman Michael Whatley and Co-Chairman Lara Trump. “Unfortunately for Democrats, their rigged political operation has backfired in a historic way, and Republicans are in a stronger position than ever to FIRE Crooked Joe Biden and Make America Great Again by electing President Trump on November 5.”

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Chairman Williams: “Weaponizing Federal Resources: Exposing the SBA’s Voter Registration Efforts”



WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the House Committee on Small Business is holding a full committee hearing titled Weaponizing Federal Resources: Exposing the SBA’s Voter Registration Efforts.”

Chairman Williams’ opening statement as prepared for delivery:

Good morning, and welcome to today’s hearing which will focus on the SBA’s Memorandum of Understanding with the State of Michigan to register voters.

I’d like to start off by thanking our witnesses for being here with us today. Your input on these important issues is greatly appreciated.

This Committee is charged with oversight of the Small Business Administration. This is a responsibility that we do not take lightly, and today we will look into how much this agency has deviated from the core mission of helping Main Street America. The SBA is tasked with aiding, counseling, and protecting the interests of small businesses across our great nation. Instead of fulfilling these goals, the SBA has entangled itself in electioneering activities that not only lack a constitutional basis, but also betray the trust and purpose for which the Agency was established.

This MOU with Michigan demonstrates a gross misalignment of the SBA’s priorities. Small businesses have been crushed the past few years with stubborn inflation, high interest rates, and a significant labor shortage. And while all of these issues have been hurting Main Street’s ability to thrive, the SBA has decided to dedicate their staff’s time and resources to register voters in a key swing seat ahead of the 2024 election.

Not only does this agreement turn its back on the entrepreneurs that are struggling, but it opens up a whole host of potential conflicts of interest.

If a president and their agencies were permitted to freely involve themselves in elections, they could misuse this influence to stay in power. The American people need to have confidence that Agencies are acting to carry out their duties without the fear of political interference. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case, and as the SBA is planning events around Michigan, the American people are going to be left wondering if the event is only being held to register President Biden’s target voting blocks.

Because of the potential to misuse this new power to register voters, the Committee immediately sent letters and started asking questions about how the SBA is carrying out these orders. And as we started asking questions, the lack of transparency was astounding. It took the SBA over 6 weeks to even show us the MOU after their initial press release announcing the new electioneering agreement. Additionally, after an SBA employee was caught on tape bragging about the Administrator’s campaign activities, they failed to make him available to speak with the Committee until we issued the first subpoenas in more than a decade.

This Committee will not stop calling out this misuse of power and will use every tool at our disposal to get the answers we need from the SBA.

I want to thank you all again for being here with us today, and I am looking forward to today’s important conversation.

With that I will yield to our distinguished Ranking Member from New York, Ms. Velázquez.

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