STC14 Welcome Address by CTO Chairman Beverly Nicholson-Doty
On behalf of the 32 member countries of the Caribbean Tourism Organization I thank Trinidad and Tobago for hosting this conference, one of the most important on the region's tourism calendar.
Trinidad and Tobago has to be congratulated for its vision and for its dedication as it is the only CTO member country to host the Sustainable Tourism Conference on three occasions.
This demonstrates a commitment to the preservation of the region's natural resources and speaks volumes for a country whose economy is driven by the energy sector.
It is also a very smart decision because figures are showing that sustainable tourism not only preserves resources for the enjoyment of future generations, but it also produces profits in the present.
Devoting resources to develop a sustainable tourism industry for today and the future has a very strong potential for a high return on investment. This is especially true for a region like ours - rich in natural resources & cultural heritage. Other regions with few natural attractions have profited from sustainable management and conservation of their resources.
Our theme, “Keeping the Right Balance: Enhancing Destination Sustainability through Products, Partnerships and Profitability" is a mouthful, but it is fitting as we work together to become more competitive as a united region of the world. We all know the benefits of standing united so we must be innovative in our partnerships.
The Caribbean is blessed with natural beauty – rainforests, beaches coral reefs, vistas, botanical gardens and rivers – there is no shortage of natural wonders.
Our God-given natural bounty, indeed, is the basis of our thriving tourism industry. As one of the most tourism dependent regions in the world, it is crucial to ensure our constituents fully understand the preservation of these valuable resources will determine our success in the future.
Discerning travelers are seeking a "sense of the place" – a term which encompasses how a destination cares for its environment and for its people. They feel the quality of their stay is linked to a destination's commitment to sustainable tourism.
Increasingly, travelers are specifically seeking out these experiences, and we must make a commitment to preserve our environment. Resources must be allocated to both the preservation of our natural resources and the development of A cutting edge hospitality sector driven by high levels of service excellence in order to provide a well-rounded visitor experience.
We have to pay close attention because it is our very success which can threaten our most valuable assets, and industry specialists tell us visitors are becoming increasingly aware of the potential negative impact of tourism on the natural beauty, cultural and historical offerings of a destination if not managed well. They want to feel their visit contributes to the conservation and enhancement of a destination's environment, culture, health and general well-being.
Visitors are now relentless in their pursuit of destinations, accommodations, activities and attractions which have implemented sustainability practices and policies.
We recognize many of our members are at varying stages of environmental consciousness so we must work together to ensure our policy makers provide the enabling environment for an industry seeking to maximize its sustainable tourism development. And, we must educate our industry to the tangible benefits of sustainable practices and how to make those profitable.
Sustainability speaks to more than the preservation of the environment – it is about the preservation of a people’s culture and heritage. To assist in this effort we should work with our friends in community-based organizations. These groups can help to both develop our local artisans and ensure their products become a part of a destination’s offerings and assist governments with spreading the message of sustainable tourism.
Those of us in whom you have entrusted regional responsibility at the Caribbean Tourism Organization have to continually renew our commitment and our approach to keeping sustainability at the forefront of economic development policy. Policy makers have to recognize the true value of tourism to the economy so they, in turn, can ensure national budgets reflect the need to responsibly develop our region’s major economic driver.
The sensitive planning of responsible tourism is no longer just a "feel good" activity but an essential component of a sound economic development strategy. These elements must be woven into the fabric of the total visitor experience and into the quality of lives for those who call the region home.
Sustainable tourism is good tourism policy. It is good for the people of our nations, it is good for the visitor experience, and it is good for business and local communities. Indeed, it is now a fact that we can "earn green by being green."
The Caribbean has long been a leader in tourism but we cannot rest on our laurels – we have to keep refreshing our products. We are one of the world's most desired destinations, but the time has come for us to put our heads together and up our sustainable tourism development game to ensure we remain in the lead.
And, I am sure, that by working together as partners we will emerge with approaches and policy directions, you will be proud to take home with you.
Thank you again to our hosts here in Trinidad and Tobago.
I look forward to spending time with each of you this week.
I thank you