Education of the population is key to unlocking the potential of the tourism industry.
That’s the view of secretary general of the Caribbean Tourism Organization, Hugh Riley, who called tourism ‘this marvellously resilient, yet incredibly vulnerable industry”.
In an address to the 19th Inter-American Travel Congress, the organisation’s secretary general warned of the danger of ignorance, saying it posed as great a threat to tourism as any major peril. Some of these include crime, civil unrest, terrorism, political instability, burdensome taxation, food-borne illnesses, communicable diseases and climate change.
“We cannot meaningfully discuss the involvement of our communities in tourism without accepting our fundamental responsibility to teach them about tourism. I submit that failure to do so is as great a danger as any other that we have identified,” Mr. Riley told delegates.
He stressed education did not mean ‘creating a tourism practitioner out of every citizen in the Americas’ but that the children in the hemisphere must be taught from an early age, the role they play in tourism.
“I’m suggesting that an essential step to sustaining our tourism industry lies in reaching into our primary and secondary schools, and unleashing the power of those young, creative minds at a very early age. Giving them a clear understanding of the role they play in the success of this industry is sometimes as basic as helping them to understand what a tourist really is, and how one expects to be treated,” the secretary general said.
Mr. Riley also focused on the importance of involving communities, stressing that people were ‘the core of our industry and the mirrors of our culture.’ Sustainability, he said, depended largely on engaging the community.
The 19th Inter-American Travel Congress, organised by the OAS and the Government of El Salvador, brought together high-level tourism authorities from Americas to discuss tourism as a vehicle to fight poverty. The Inter-American Travel Congress was created in 1939 with the objective of promoting the development of tourism in the Americas.