We at the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) salute the World Tourism Organization for asking us to focus on Tourism and Water – Protecting our Common Future.
This World Tourism Day, therefore, is an opportunity for us to reflect on all aspects of our vital tourism sector – the social, cultural, economic and environmental aspects – and the impact they have on our precious water resources.
Water is such a natural part of the Caribbean, with a seemingly endless supply of both fresh and sea water, that we risk taking it for granted.
Tourism, our main economic earner, relies heavily on reliable sources of water so we should find ways to ensure sustainable supply to our hotels, restaurants, entertainment centres, and sporting facilities. Visiting cruise ships also need this precious resource to function effectively.
Let us also reflect on how we and our visitors can sustainably enjoy the coastal areas oceans, tropical forests, wetlands, waterfalls and lakes, and how we interact with precious marine life and our underwater heritage.
Water resources serve as a direct source of employment for thousands of Caribbean people in the form of dive tourism, watersports, game-fishing and snorkeling. It’s for this reason, and the fact that we have a duty to future generations, that we must practise sustainable water-use policies.
The challenges include better wastewater management practices in our swimming pools, water parks and golf courses.
We at the CTO provide our members with opportunities to learn and implement sustainable tourism practices, including those related to water consumption.
One outstanding example is the Caribbean Hotel Energy Efficiency Action Programme (CHENACT) which the CTO manages in conjunction with the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA). This public-private sector programme helps Caribbean hotels to implement energy efficient practices and to generate their own renewable energy.
Since its launch in 2009, CHENACT has helped more than 80 hotels to reduce costs and to improve energy consumption patterns. We project saving the region’s hotel sector approximately USD $271 million annually in utility costs. We thank the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) for its continued support of this vital programme.
In addition, our annual Sustainable Tourism Conference (STC) engages key industry influencers on the sustainability of our destinations by operating biodiversity-friendly tourism systems.
Initiatives promoting sustainable water use must be backed by comprehensive education and awareness campaigns for locals and visitors.
We ask governments to look at legislative support and inducements, such as tax rebates, to ensure sustainable tourism gains wider acceptance.
We need a multi-sectorial approach – combining public policy and incentives; private-sector financing and endorsement; backed by effective community and visitor education and awareness programs.
But on this World Tourism Day, we must remember our responsibility as individuals to practise better water consumption patterns. By so doing we enhance the attractiveness of our destination which is also our home.
The author is chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organization