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Move tourism from numbers, arrivals to being value driven – Thompson

Move tourism from numbers, arrivals to being value driven – Thompson
Liz Thompson

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Far too often, in pursuit of increased tourism arrivals and receipts, sound technical advice is cast aside, ignored and in many cases never sought at all.

“When a hotel seeks to destroy and build on the last remaining mangrove area or a special ecosystem is the development denied or allowed?

“When new tourism villas will cut off the access of local communities to a popular beach, who is given precedence?”

Those are some of the questions posed recently at the Beachcombers hotel in Villa by Barbados’ Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) Elizabeth Thompson.

Thompson asked the questions while addressing the 2019 Caribbean Conference on Sustainable Tourism (STC2019), which was being held under the theme “Keeping the Right Balance: Tourism Development in an Era of Diversification”.

She said the theme forces stakeholders to ask some pertinent questions.

Going further, Thompson questioned, “when security guards at hotel properties prevent nationals from even walking the beach, who is really the owner and the beneficiary of the product and the country?

“When fishermen complain that the disposal practices of hotels and their discharges into the marine environment are ruining fish stocks at a traditional fishing site, who listens?”

She noted that in the region, we are proceeding on the premise that there will always be a Caribbean tourism product, but that may not always be the case.

“Who in our governments and tourism sectors make the determination of pursuing short term gain over long term sustainability?

“Do we truly appreciate the link between climate resilience, profitability in the tourism sector and sustainability?

“Do we even have a vision of sustainability for our countries and tourism sectors?” Thompson went on, while noting that we are living in an era where our actions and choices can impact the planet’s natural environment and climate.

She asked further, “is sustainability a buzzword, or is it the coagulant infusing our strategic planning and operation in the tourism sector and at the broader national level?

“Do we truly appreciate that we cannot degrade and destroy the very environment on which our tourism arrivals and revenues are being generated?

“Are sustainability and the creation of decent work and wider benefits for nationals incompatible?” the former Barbadian government minister questioned.

She added, “Do our national and tourism planners eschew short term gain in favour of long-term benefit and sustainable development?

“How do we prevent the race to the bottom that we think competition naturally engenders?”

She said that it is important in the region that we move tourism from being numbers and arrivals driven to being value driven and as a result, that value, including high yields in terms of spend (direct not peripheral) will benefit citizens and communities.

“What is the type, nature and pace of the diversification which is taking place?” Thompson further asked.

She noted that in so far as diversification represents change, it is questionable whether the Caribbean is coping with and adapting to a period of change in the tourism sector and the world generally, in which economic, social, environmental, and political megatrends are impacting the industry, some more profoundly than others.