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Must Be Sustainable
"The Greater Caribbean This Week"
6th Annual Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Investment Conference held in Puerto Rico
last week provided a timely opportunity for reflection on both the immediate
impact of the September 11 terrorist attacks on regional tourism, and the
long-term prospects for the industry.
view advanced by Mr. Jean-Claude Baumgarten, president of the World Travel and
Tourism Council, was a mixture of short-term catastrophe and medium-term
prosperity. Mr. Baumgarten projects a 13.5 percent reduction in Caribbean
tourism for 2001 and 2002 followed by a recovery of 7.1 percent in demand in
contraction in 2001-2002 translates into substantial losses in earnings and
employment. He estimates that four countries alone (the Dominican Republic,
Puerto Rico, Jamaica and the Bahamas) will together lose US$2 billion in the two
years; while the entire region will lose 365,000 jobs. He believes that about a
half of these will be restored in 2003.
Baumgarten's prediction is consoling but it is not necessarily realistic. It is
true that the pattern of short-term reduction followed by steep recovery was
observed after the Gulf War of 1990-1991. But the global economic and political
environment is marked by much greater uncertainty today than at the end of the
both world and Caribbean tourism have changed significantly in the last decade.
World tourism has become more competitive and travelers more discriminating.
Within the Caribbean mass tourism destinations have boomed but smaller
destinations are approaching saturation point. The social and environmental
stresses of rapid tourist expansion are everywhere evident.
chief issue facing regional tourism now is its long-term sustainability. Whether
or not there is good recovery of the industry in 2003, it will continue to be
vulnerable to natural and man-made events such as those of last September.
the greater the economic role of tourism, the more the effects of its volatility
will be transmitted to regional economies.
was the import of St. Lucian Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony's keynote address
to the Conference. Dr. Anthony told the participants that Caribbean tourism is
at a cross-roads. It may be at a place of imminent crisis.
he said, the present juncture may be seen as an opportunity to review the
options for long-term development and update the vision of where regional
tourism ought to go.
vision must necessarily be one of sustainable tourism. In broad terms, it was
set out in the Convention establishing the Sustainable Tourism Zone of the
Caribbean (STZC) signed at the Association of Caribbean States Summit states
last December. The STZC has 12 elements:
policies and instruments
and Maritime Transport
with the private sector
other words, market development is just one element in a larger package that
addresses economic, cultural, social, and environmental sustainability.
instance, as Dr. Anthony argued, the desirability of providing incentives to
private tourist investors has to be balanced against the need to provide an
adequate infrastructure, which requires government funding.
column will continue to monitor developments related to sustainable tourism in
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Norman Girvan is Secretary General of the Association of Caribbean States.
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