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World Tourism Day highlights challenges and successes for Barbados, Caribbean

September 27, 2021

The Caribbean is joining the rest of the world in observing World Tourism Day emphasizing the importance of the industry to the socio-economic development of the region.

Acting Secretary General of the Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), Neil Walters said tourism is the region’s primary money earner, with the Caribbean welcoming an estimated 30.2 million international tourists and 29.3 million cruise visits last year generating approximately US$39.3 billion in revenue for regional economies.

He said the sector provides a myriad of opportunities to enrich the lives of residents, drives meaningful employment, investment and entrepreneurial initiatives, contributes to sustainable alternative livelihoods and supports community development, which has importantly begun to include development in rural and traditionally marginalised communities.

But he warned that climate change is having a serious impact on the tourism sector and that the recent experiences of Hurricanes Dorian this year and Irma and Maria last year underscore the “urgent need for adaptation to the impacts of natural disasters propelled by climate variability and climate change (CVC).

“It should also highlight the support needed by the tourism sector, and most particularly national governments, to enhance climate resilience. Scientists have predicted among other CVC impacts, an increase in the frequency and severity of natural disasters.”

Walters said that these powerful climatic events in the last four years make it clear that the time to act is now.

It is important to ensure climate adaptation and resilience of the sector, for the Caribbean to secure and maintain tourism’s role and capability as an engine for social and economic growth, the generator of jobs and the foundation of a future for all.

“We have to do our own critical analysis, and in some cases, rebuild this important industry by ensuring the optimal use of social, natural, cultural and financial resources on an equitable and self-sustaining basis. The setbacks caused by these natural disasters present a very powerful opportunity for us to ‘build back better’, to borrow the slogan made popular by one of our members after the hurricanes in 2017,” he said.

World Tourism Day is being observed under the theme “Tourism and Jobs: A better Future for All” and the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) said that the theme is particularly relevant for the Caribbean because no other sector creates more jobs or more opportunities in a wider variety of professions and skills.

“In addition to the 2.5 million people employed directly, many more benefit indirectly from the industry’s contributions to Caribbean health, wealth, education and the environment. Our infrastructure, schools, hospitals, public services, and parks and recreation facilities are all helped by this dynamic and growing industry – already the world’s largest sector but also its fastest growing,” CHTA president Patricia Affonso-Dass.

She said the 2017 hurricanes and Hurricane Dorian that devastated some of destinations reinforced the indispensable role of tourism in the lives of Caribbean people.

“They remind us that for each tourism employee unable to work because of the storms, many members of their families were also affected,” she said, making reference to the efforts at helping the

Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian.

“There will be more jobs as tourism recovers from the hurricanes and the industry resumes its healthy growth trend, and our task is to spread the benefits more equitably to a wider cross section of our people. We want to ensure women, youth, minorities, and the differently abled have open gateways to employment, ownership and leadership within the industry.

“There are over 1,000 different job and career paths in the industry, a fifth of which are at supervisory and management levels. Increasing diversity always strengthens companies and organizations, especially in tourism. Our visitors come from a wide range of backgrounds, so our people who welcome visitors to our shores should also reflect the full spectrum of our rich human diversity.”

The CHTA president said that the recent collapse of the world’s oldest travel agency, Thomas Cook,  offers more lessons.

“While never losing sight of the fundamentals of hospitality, the dynamics of our industry demands our adaptability and responsiveness to change if we are not to face a similar fate.

“Tourism can benefit every corner of our region and so on this World Tourism Day, we celebrate the importance of the industry and the employment and entrepreneurial opportunities it represents. We resolve individually and collectively, as businesses, governments and education and training institutions, to continue to invest in our people,” Affonso-Dass added.

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