Chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), Richard Skerrit, told the opening of the 13th edition of at the CTO’s Sustainable Tourism Conference (STC-13), “it is now well established that tourism growth cannot be sustained unless today’s interests are balanced with the vital needs of tomorrow.
“This is why CTO is playing a leading role in promoting tourism awareness amongst our people, and for establishing minimum standards for preparing and delivering the outstanding natural products of our region.”
STC-13 brings together 200 tourism industry leaders from the more than 30 Caribbean and international sustainable tourism practitioners and experts, academics and others.
The four-day conference which opened on Sunday is being held under the theme “Keeping the Right Balance: Sustaining our Resources”.
Skerritt, who is also the Tourism Minister in St Kitts and Nevis told the opening ceremony this year’s theme was no accident.
“The case of Guyana is a clear example that it is our God-given natural assets and our rich cultural heritage that best distinguish the Caribbean from our competitors, and that responsible tourism is actually good business.
“And, with tourism being the leading money earner for so many Caribbean countries, what this conference theme suggests is that, in order to appropriately address the essentials of economic growth and poverty alleviation, we must each adopt a development strategy that is sustainability based,” Skerrit said
He hailed the host country for responsible decision-making in building its sustainable tourism platform, making specific mention of the Low Carbon Development Strategy pioneered by former president Bharrat Jagdeo. Under the programme the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) receives compensation for the preservation of its vast forests.
“It is therefore my pleasure today to add to the global applause for the Guyana Government and people, for placing such high value on your biodiversity conservation, ecosystem management, and climate change adaptation efforts. Guyana’s initiatives in this regard are yet another example that the Caribbean is not hamstrung by its size, and can lead the world,” he said.
“The good news is that Guyana’s decision to better manage its vast forest resources, and to be responsible in its development strategy, is attracting more and more attention from the world of travel & tourism, especially the adventure-tourism markets,” he added.
Skerritt wants other destinations to follow Guyana’s lead in “responsible decision-making.
“With the urgent economic imperatives and critical fiscal challenges confronting our region, Guyana could easily have succumbed to the temptation to expand the extraction of timber and other resources from its vast rain forests, for economic gain. But recognizing the long-term negative impact of deforestation, Guyana has been convinced that it ought not to be forced to choose been short-term development priorities and climate change.
“Even with the scary storm clouds of recession still hovering in our region, and the loud insistent call that we must get our economic houses in order quickly, the Guyana government still chose to protect virtually its entire 40 million acres of rain forest. This means that approximately 80 per cent of the natural land asset of Guyana is being preserved through deliberate and responsible decision-making by its government,” he added.
Guyana’s Acting Tourism Minister Irfaan Ali said his country expected that tourism would play a critical role in the development of the country’s economy.
He told delegates that it was his government’s view that eco-incentives and benefits must be skewed in the direction of motivating investments in sustainable tourism.
The host minister made a pitch for the setting up an integrated marketing plan that fuses the advantages of CTO member states. He said such a plan should withstand external shocks and create avenues for new opportunities.
“Tourism is too big to fail and singularly, we’re too small to compete,” Ali said, highlighting the need for continued sustainable practices within the tourism sector.
He said food production has an important role and that visitors to Caribbean destinations desire fresh local produce so as to enhance their experience and urged member states to join Guyana in its “by regional, eat regional, live regional” campaign.
STC-13 will include panel discussions and study tours, all in an effort to better understand the business and find meaningful ways of promoting and maintaining sound sustainable tourism practices.
This is the second time Guyana is hosting the event.