Support for tourism crucial

Today is Caribbean Tourism day.

Recognised by the Caribbean Tourism Organization and all its member countries, this day is designated to mark the regions’ important industry of growth and success.

Tourism represents the biggest industry in the world. The consistent growth of tourists and tourism receipts over many years since international travel became accessible to the general public, has convinced many developing nations that they can profit from tourism.

Recent statistics from the World Tourism Organization show that tourism generates about 10 per cent of total world gross domestic product; employs over 10 per cent of the global workforce and is an industry that continues to exceed growth expectations. In fact, the World Tourism Organization expects international tourism arrivals to reach one billion by 2010.

With the tourist numbers constantly increasing, all stakeholders in this industry must embrace the idea of sustainable tourism. This has become more than just the buzz word of the day. It focuses on the triple bottom line of economic, environmental and social considerations.

Sustainable tourism also ensures that the industry develops in a way that is fair and equitable for all countries; it is economically viable in the long-term; and it avoids damage to tourist attractions and the physical environment.

In an effort to promote sustainable tourism practices, the government of the Cayman Islands is embarking on a project called the Cayman Islands Environmental Project for the Tourism Sector. This project, scheduled to commence in December, is another public private sector partnership, which will promote improved environmental performance in the Cayman Islands Tourism Sector.

The primary objectives of CEPTS are:

• Developing greater awareness and understanding of the benefits of environmental management systems;

Developing the technical skills of industry personnel who would implement environmental management systems; and

• Assisting the industry in attaining Green Globe certification or a similar type of environmental certification programme.

In the very near future we will be piloting the project by working with seven properties; three on Grand Cayman, three on Little Cayman and one on Cayman Brac. Over time, the project will extend to various tourism related businesses and operators including attractions and restaurants.

As I am sure you are all aware existing environmental legislation in the Cayman Islands is outdated, going back to 1978 in the case of the Marine Conservation Law and 1976 in the case of the Animals Law. The current legislation simply does not provide the necessary regulatory framework to adequately address environmental issues.

Therefore a comprehensive updating of the Cayman Islands’ environmental legislation is required to help ensure that Cayman complies with its treaty obligations under a number of international conservation agreements to which we are a party.

If we are to truly embrace sustainable tourism development, we must face some tough discussions on matters concerning land use planning and development planning and guidelines. There should no longer be any doubt that we need to address the issue of sustainable development to ensure that we do not fall into the trap that many small island developing nations face, that of physical over-development.

On this Caribbean Tourism Day, hard questions must be addressed.

We must ask ourselves:

• How do we clearly define setbacks for coastal development sites?

• What type and scale development is best for the Eastern districts?

• How do we adequately allocate land to various types of tourism development, which all seek to meet the needs of the visitor?

These and other questions frame the decisions we must make soon to ensure our tourism product is not here today and gone tomorrow.

For sustainability is not just about what we do today, but what we leave for tomorrow.

Charles E. Clifford– Minister of Tourism

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