forum’s focus

Caribbean business and tourism leaders have discussed how the industry can and should make itself environmentally sustainable.

The 12th Sustainable Tourism Conference took place from 4-6 April at Fairmont in Southampton, Bermuda.

Secretary-general of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, Hugh Riley, said the theme of the conference was Keeping the Right Balance; Rising above the Numbers.

“We think the conference is an important event, eagerly anticipated by tourism professionals, academics, environmentalists and anyone concerned about the principles of sustainability, particularly in relation to the business of tourism…

“While at times the threats – and certainly some of the numbers – may seem daunting, I hope that we will find comfort in the fact that we are not alone in our search for solutions, and not alone in our determination to eliminate – or at the very least minimise – the effects of the elements that would threaten our lives and our livelihood,” he told delegates.

These issues affect everyone, whether public or private sector, local, regional or international. The industry’s combined resources make it ‘legendary’, said the secretary-general, in its ability to find solutions and to sustain itself.

“This conference reinforce[d] the value of the assets with which we have been blessed. We will examine the benefits to us, and to future generations, if we use those assets well, and the consequences if we squander or otherwise abuse them. And isn’t that really what keeping the right balance is all about? It’s about living well, while safeguarding our future,” he said.

Threats to industry

Mr. Riley told delegates that there were disparate threats to the industry, including natural disasters, crime and terrorism, or political creations such as the much-discussed Air Passenger Duty implemented by the UK can cause disruption and confusion, he said, but the Caribbean has a history of recovery and renewal.

Carbon emissions and the environment were central to the conference, with the Kyoto Protocol and the Clean Development Mechanism under discussion.

“The countries of the Caribbean Tourism Organization are world-renowned for their wholesome breezes and pristine environment. We are low carbon emitters. No one in their right mind could seriously be thinking that the Caribbean is a significant contributor to global warming. But we certainly could suffer the consequences; climate change and rising sea levels could create conditions that would devastate our economies.

“Therefore we must be prepared to scrutinise how the actions of our industrialised neighbours in developed countries can impact our lives, and together we must examine measures that – rather than simply punish us through emissions taxes, will in fact help to compensate our countries for being responsible stewards of the environment. We must ensure that our member-countries continue to lead the way in environmental best-practices,” concluded 
Mr. Riley.


Hugh Riley