Caribbean Tourism Day Message from CTO Acting Secretary General, Hugh Riley

BARBADOS – Tuesday, November 4th marked Caribbean Tourism Day. Acting Secretary General, Hugh Riley commemorated the day with his message.

Caribbean Tourism Day provides an opportunity for us to reflect on tourism’s contribution to the economic, social and cultural development of the region, as well as the challenges that the sector faces.

As the single largest foreign exchange earner, bringing in an estimated US$25 billion a year, tourism plays a vital role in the enrichment of the quality of life of Caribbean peoples. The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), the regional tourism development agency, in collaboration with our partners in the private sector, will continue to promote sustainable tourism as a means of bringing direct benefits to our communities, alleviating poverty and preserving our cultural heritage and our environment.

This year, we have chosen as the theme for Caribbean Tourism Day: “Tourism: Responding to the Challenge of Climate Change.” It is the same theme used by the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) for World Tourism Day in September, and for the same reason. Both organisations recognise that now is the time to respond effectively to the challenges posed to the tourism sector by climate change.

There is no doubt that the climate is changing. While scientists may disagree on why it’s getting warmer, they agree that temperatures are rising. Whatever the cause, climate change is a major issue for the Caribbean tourism sector, which attracts about three per cent of global tourism arrivals.

While the region accounts for less than one per cent of Green House Gas Emissions, we are among the most vulnerable to the impact of climate change. Our region and others are already seeing more frequent and more powerful storms and increased flooding. We have to contend with rising sea levels and possible beach erosion.

One of the Caribbean responses to the challenges of climate change, dates back to 2004 with the establishment of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC). Its mission is to support the people of the Caribbean as they address the issue.

The tourism sector has also taken a stand – through the CTO and the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association – with the publication of a position paper on global climate change and the Caribbean tourism industry. It states that measures should be proportionate to industries’ and countries’ overall contribution to climatic changes; and that the region should not be penalised as the world’s major economic powers move to minimize their impacts on the global climate.

The CTO also recommends cross-sectoral, inter-ministerial and cross- ministerial cooperation and collaboration to effectively tackle the issue of climate change; and that the Caribbean should seek to become the world’s first ‘carbon neutral’ tourism region.

To this end, CTO, with other stakeholders, is engaging in a project led by CCCCC and the Oxford University Centre for the Environment. In the face of climate change, the project aims to strengthen, protect and enhance the economies and livelihoods of Caribbean nations and sectoral stakeholders who rely directly and indirectly on the Caribbean tourism sector. It also aims to strengthen, protect and enhance the natural and built assets and sectors on which the industry is based.

As part of our ongoing programme to bring the issue to the fore, CTO dealt with climate change extensively, at our sustainable tourism conference earlier this year. Prior to this, at our 30th annual conference in 2007, we brought together international scientists and the head of CCCCC, Dr. Ulric Trotz, to sensitise public and private sector partners about the impacts of climate change on our planet and on our region. And, at our Tourism Youth Congress late last month in Trinidad, Caribbean Junior Ministers and Commissioners of Tourism were challenged to discuss the issue and to come up with suggestions on how to help our youth to focus greater attention on this important subject. Public awareness/education was seen as key to getting the youth involved in the discussions related to climate change.

CTO also recently provided funding support for a Youth and Climate Change Regional Workshop which takes place this week in Barbados, and is organised by Counterpart Caribbean and Sandwatch Foundation.

On this Caribbean Tourism Day, we urge you to reflect on the issue of climate change and to act globally and locally to minimize its impact. The CTO will continue to focus attention on this critical matter and to attempt to influence decisions that will improve the quality of life for the people of the Caribbean and preserve our environment for the generations to come

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