The Honourable Dr. Kenny Anthony To The Sixth Caribbean Media Exchange On Sustainable Tourism
OPENING ADDRESS BY THE PRIME MINISTER OF
THE HONOURABLE DR. KENNY ANTHONY
THE SIXTH CARIBBEAN MEDIA EXCHANGE ON SUSTAINABLE TOURISM
“EXPLORING TOURISM: WIDENING THE BOUNDARIES OF CARIBBEAN SUSTAINABILITY”
Counterpart International and Counterpart Caribbean
24th – 28th June 2004
BAY GARDENS HOTEL
RODNEY BAY, CASTRIES
Salutations (Presence to be confirmed).
Ladies and Gentlemen.
I wish to thank the organizers of the Sixth Caribbean Media Exchange on Sustainable Tourism - Counterpart International and Counterpart Caribbean - for their kind invitation to deliver the opening remarks at this important regional forum. I am especially heartened to see the number of media practitioners, tourism planners, hoteliers, non-governmental organizations and government officials here today, which demonstrates the critical importance that all of you have ascribed towards the continued sustainable growth of our Caribbean Tourism and Travel Industry.
More importantly, your presence signifies that if we are to maximize the contribution of tourism to our economies, we must establish and maintain more productive partnerships among a range of diverse interest groups. We must also create the necessary nurturing environment that will engender greater ownership by each and every one of our citizens. The central role of the media in contributing to that environment by providing positive awareness and sensitization programmes needs no further elaboration.
Background to Sustainable Development Concept
Ladies and gentlemen, in the guidelines I received to deliver this opening address, I was challenged to be provocative and bold but also brief. The successful outputs of this conference will emanate from the rich exchange of ideas and solutions to many new and emerging challenges – challenges that threaten the very life-blood and viability of our industry.
The theme for the conference speaks to the need for widening the boundaries of Caribbean Sustainability. The idea of sustainability, however, is not a new one and both Agenda 21 and the Barbados Programme of Action have placed the special vulnerabilities and challenges of Small Island Developing States in achieving sustainability squarely on the global development agenda.
Sustainability and sustainable development concepts arose from the growing conflict between environmentalism and development. People of goodwill who desired both economic development and environmental quality were concerned that the conflict would hinder one or both of these goals. Similar conflicts have arisen in the development of the region’s Tourism Industry as our initial tourism endeavours often exploited and sacrificed critical coastal and marine resources. I am pleased to say that the tourism industry today, if well managed, can stimulate both economic and social development without compromising the natural and cultural resource base.
The recent receipt by the Barbados Hotel Casuarina Beach Club of one of four prestigious 2004 World Legacy awards in sustainable tourism demonstrates that we can all learn from that experience and aspire to excellence in our tourism product and services.
As in other parts of the world that rely on tourism, and especially as small islands with fragile and vulnerable resources, it continues to be a delicate challenge to resolve how to bring in tourists and all of the associated economic benefits without destroying the very product which the tourists have come here to experience. However, if we are to truly speak of sustainability, local communities must also benefit directly or indirectly from the tourism product.
Caribbean Sustainability – Threats and Opportunities
The connection between economic benefits to host communities and environmental conservation had been missed over the years. The establishment of parks that excluded local people bears testimony to this fact and examples are rife around the world. This marginalisation of local communities was perpetuated by the seeming inability of local people to participate meaningfully in the tourism industry.
However, as the tourism agenda takes on more of a responsible mandate, there has been greater recognition of the connection between community involvement, environmental conservation and tourism development. The role of communities in tourism has therefore surfaced as an inextricable component of the development processes.
The Changing Face of Tourism
Mass tourism has been blamed for the problems of environmental damage experienced by many traditional tourism destinations like the Mediterranean. This recognition has led to the emergence of a different form of tourism where environmental impacts are minimized, and social contributions to host communities are maximized.
Mr. Chairman, changes in the tourism landscape have posed particular challenges to ensure wider and more sustained benefits from areas such as the cruise tourism and the all-inclusive sectors. We have also sought to diversify our tourism product into niche areas such as sports tourism. It is evident that each of these tourism niche areas requires particular national and regional policy, regulatory and institutional frameworks if they are to be successful.
According to WTTC president Jean-Claude Baumgarten, who addressed the last Caribbean Hotel Industry Conference in Puerto Rico, "travel and tourism is without question the most important export sector in the region. It helps to diversify the Caribbean economy, stimulate entrepreneurship, catalyse investment, create sustainable jobs and helps social development in local communities.”
In 2004, travel and tourism in the Caribbean is forecast to see real growth of 10 %, generating US$40.3 billion in economic activity. Our challenge as a region is to ensure that this activity is not limited to only a few individuals or a few countries but that all our Caribbean brothers and sisters benefit. As a region, we are as strong as our weakest link, so our efforts must recognize the fundamental principle of equity in the distribution of the benefits from the industry and that through the industry we can address the fundamental problem of poverty alleviation in our region.
Meeting the Challenges of the Global Marketplace
Mr. Chairman, tourism may be one of the few industries where we have demonstrated that we can compete and compete successfully in the global arena. It is true that some in the sector have argued that tourism bears an unreasonable share of the burden for our region’s tax and revenue base. While that may be a discussion for a different forum, our policies whether they be fiscal, economic or financial must be aligned to ensure that the industry continues to maintain a strategic advantage that allows it to continue to contribute to sustained economic growth, social development and environmental sustainability.
The Media – Partners in the Process
Mr. Chair, while in my introductory remarks I suggested that there was no need to elaborate further on the importance of the media in ensuring the sustainability of the tourism industry and in promoting the linkages between tourism and sustainable development, in an era where global access to information and misinformation is so readily available, the power of the media cannot be underestimated.
The media have the collective power to make or break the industry and years of building confidence could be destroyed overnight by one occurrence of irresponsible reporting. But, rather than focus on the negative, I wish to reiterate the media’s critical role in engendering greater ownership of the industry by all persons. Everyone must see tourism as a national industry and where each person has a direct stake and interest.
I take this opportunity to thank Counterpart International, Counterpart Caribbean and the other organizers of this Caribbean Media Exchange Institute as well as the wide range of private sector interests who continue to support this important event.
Ladies and Gentlemen, to achieve sustainable development, we must break down the artificial sector barriers and focus on how each economic sector including tourism can contribute to our long-term development objectives. There can be no such thing as sustainable tourism without the effective integration and support of all of other sectors.
In creating an enabling national and regional environment for tourism, solutions to the issues that you will be discussing as part of this conference on HIV/AIDS, Trade, International Security, and Energy supply must be part of the sustainability agenda. Likewise, we cannot expect that the private sector will be solely responsible for fostering the growth of the industry without the appropriate governmental enabling environment and without tangible support from civil society and local communities.
In closing, Mr. Chairman, I expect the exchanges and discussions to be lively, interactive and controversial. Any discussions on developmental priorities will require compromise, tolerance and flexibility. But we must remain firm in our resolve as to the overall goal – improving the quality of lives of all the peoples of our region both today and for the future.
I propose that while we may continue to be economically, socially and environmentally vulnerable, we must be ready, willing and able to accept the full mantle of responsibility for ensuring that our Tourism product is developed in such a way that ensures maximum benefit to all.
I wish you success in your deliberations and look forward to clear, pragmatic recommendations that will continue to foster a nurturing environment for tourism development and for Caribbean Sustainability.
Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you.
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