Barbados and other Caribbean islands are being encouraged to focus on strategies that would promote sustainable tourism as the region continues to rebuild the sector post COVID-19.
One regional academic also says that the successes of the industry in the past had not come without a cost and it is time to consider balance in the industry.
Dr Acolla Cameron, dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at The University of the West Indies St Augustine Campus told a Caribbean World Tourism Forum on Tuesday, “The region has had its fair share of drawbacks ranging from economic leakages to natural habitat loss, reduction in biodiversity, land and marine-based pollution, loss of access by locals to sites and attractions and disenfranchised residents due to limited access to the economic benefits of tourism,” she said.
Nevertheless, she said that as the region transitioned into a post-pandemic period, it was important to consider “a more balanced approach to tourism development” by minimizing the disadvantages and maximizing the benefits.
She was one of the opening speakers in the Zoom session which focused on the theme Rethinking Tourism: Financing for Sustainable Tourism Development.
During the three-hour virtual event which marked World Tourism Day, Dr Cameron said that the industry had played a critical role in the socio-economic development of the Caribbean by creating job opportunities, paving the way for infrastructural projects and facilitating many foreign and local investments with trickle-down benefits to the wider society.
However, she said that in many instances, due to ineffective or inefficient management, the region paid the price.
Noting that the COVID-19 pandemic globally turned the spotlight on sustainable tourism, Cameron said the time was ripe to look at ways in which the region could enhance its tourism product with little to no impact on the environment as climate change posed a significant problem to the development of tourism and the way of life in the Caribbean.
Acknowledging the efforts of the Caribbean islands over the past two years in leading the recovery of the tourism industry, Cameron said the region must now look to the future, continue to be creative and build resilience in the advent of another shock.
Meanwhile, chief executive officer of the CTO Neil Walters said financing was one of the most challenging issues the region’s tourism sector faced. He pointed to a great need for innovative models, new policy development and marketing objectives and a focus on exploring alternative fundraising opportunities and investments. (SZB)