We welcome this year’s theme of ‘Tourism and Community Development’ with great enthusiasm as it shines a much-needed spotlight on the importance of community involvement in tourism planning; a tenet of sustainable tourism and the core of the CTO’s mandate.
As the most tourism-dependent region in the world, the Caribbean relies upon its tourism decision makers to lead the industry to profitability and sustainability, understanding fully the extent to which the citizens of this Region rely upon the sector for their economic well-being. An estimated one in every ten jobs in the Caribbean, as well as one of every five dollars of foreign exchange earnings is directly attributed to tourism. More than anywhere else in the world, the Caribbean turns to its communities of stakeholders to deliver the hospitality and the superb vacation experience our Region needs in order to be truly competitive.
We are pleased that increasingly, a multi-stakeholder approach is being taken to tourism development, including legislative changes, mandating environmental, social and cultural impact assessments prior to construction, and a dedicated focus on all aspects of responsible stewardship of our Region’s assets. In effect, these considerations place the community and the impact of tourism development on indigenous cultures, historical structures and vulnerable groups high on the list of considerations.
However, much more can be done to ensure that the visitor experience includes – and is shaped in collaboration with – local communities. Only when revenue sharing and developmental opportunities redound to the benefit of the community, can we truly claim success in tourism.
Regional examples abound; and we are heartened by the increasing discourse on mixed-use tourism developments that incorporate commercial and cultural facilities and experiences. We anticipate that ultimately, this trend will find mainstream adoption.
Each year, as part of its Caribbean Excellence in Sustainable Tourism Awards, the CTO partners with TravelMole to issue a Community Benefit Award to entities that proactively protect, sustain and incorporate communities in the delivery of their tourism product. These awards help to deliver a competitive advantage for our Region and act as sign posts for visitors seeking sustainable, responsible tourism experiences in this rapidly growing sector.
We stand ready to partner with key public, private and non-governmental organizations to illuminate tourism’s impact on Caribbean communities and to inspire increasing focus on tourism development that empowers our people and guarantees the success of our Region for generations to come.