Greener tourism on agenda at conference

How to promote greener tourism was
discussed at the Tourism Outlook Seminar held in Montego
Bay last week.

Cletus I. Springer is the director
of the Department of Sustainable Development, Organisation of American States.
The OAS is a body that promotes democracy, human rights, security and
development worldwide.

Mr. Springer asked delegates to
consider whether tourism jobs could be transformed into green, eco-friendly
jobs, whether the ‘greening’ of a tourism entity could lead to new jobs and
whether there was an affordable and viable way to align tourism training with
the green agenda.

He said that encouraging citizens
to take ownership of the green idea and responsibility for its implementation
would craft a long-range vision that transcended politics, class and cultural
differences.

Bottom line

Another seminar discussed
transformation to a green economy. Delegates heard that whilst in the 1970s
there was a ‘triple bottom line’ of sustainability that invoked economic,
social and environmental factors, in 2010 it had become a quadruple bottom line
as climate issues were now also central to the mix.

Similarly, while 40 years ago the
classic tourism mix was growth, marketing, promotion, and sustaining the
market, in a contemporary context leading to the future professionals are now
discussing ‘smart tourism’ with clean, green, ethical and quality issues now
the central focus.

However, rather than a threat to the
old ways, it must be seen as an opportunity to redefine the product markets,
consumers, supply chains, distribution, multimedia and branding, delegates
heard.

A reality check had been needed
from the Copenhagen Climate Conference, continued the presentation.
Expectations and media hype had been too high, but it was the job of the tourism
community to adhere to the targets set whilst also satisfying stakeholders,
employing best practice and embracing innovation and being accountable.

Delegates were directed toward
Green Earth’s Live The Deal initiative, which is designed to help travel and
tourism companies and communities measure their carbon emissions, correlating
them to the commitments that their governments make under the Copenhagen
Climate accord.

Community

Mr. Springer said that promoting a
strong community spirit and targeting implementation at the community level
would give communities control but they must be aware that there were
limitations and vulnerabilities to consider.

They included size of community,
vulnerability to external shock and fragility of natural resources. There would
be zero margin for error, he noted.

Financial difficulties, capacity
constraints, technological and human resource issues had to be also taken into
consideration.

Pragmatism in terms of informed,
rational and timely decisions to bring the greatest good to the greatest
number, development within reasonable limits and a determination and commitment
were key, he added.

Two-edged sword

Springer called tourism a ‘two-edged
sword’. Whilst it brought significant costs and benefits, it also demanded
careful management to ensure that it didn’t take out more than it brought in,
did not deplete or harm natural resources and did not exceed the carrying
capacity of the island.

 Springer also said that it was imperative that
its development did not worsen the risk profile of a country, quoting Jamaica in this
case.

Other issues to take into account
included water resources, waste management, natural hazards, sustainable
transport and energy, said the director.