Widespread tax incentives policies promoting sustainability of operations, sound infrastructure planning, and truly effective and coherent partnerships between public and private sectors are the key issues the tourism sector has to tackle in order to effectively mediate the numerous challenges it faces.
These were the main recommendations made today by Mr Royston Hopkin C.M.G., Chairman of the Caribbean Alliance for Sustainable Tourism (CAST) in his address to high-end officials from the public and private sectors at the Seminar of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) entitled “Financing of Water and Sanitation Services in the Caribbean” at the Almond Beach Village, Barbados.
“Governments can assist the regional private sector almost immediately, through effective tax incentive programs that have a supportive policy framework with clearly enunciated goals, strategies and measurable targets. This will serve to remove existing system ambiguities, establish a backdrop of vibrant public/ private/ community partnerships, improve efficiencies, reduce risk and encourage the sharing of resources and expertise.
The prime purpose would be to spur the indigenous private sector on towards investing their resources and expertise in local infrastructure.” he said.
The lack of priority given to tourism as an export trade in trade agreements; the region’s increasing economic dependence on tourism; the difficulty in achieving productive cooperative public and private sector partnerships; and the degradation of ecosystems affecting the tourism experience, were cited among the challenges faced by the tourism industry.
Mr Hopkin reported that tremendous efforts are already taking place on environmental issues particularly among Caribbean hoteliers, supported by CAST and the Caribbean Hotel Association (CHA) as can be seen by the fact the region has the largest proportion of hotels certified to Green Globe 21 in the world. “The Green Globe 21 certification program introduced environmental management systems or EMS to hotels, the consequence of which has been operational efficiencies.
Savings on consumption of energy and water have been particularly impressive”, he said. Indeed, he presented data from the EAST project in Jamaica which demonstrates the savings on water water consumption made by hotels implementing EMS: the average saving per hotel is 30%, and in the case of one participating property, the savings reached as high as 50%.
However, the industry still has a long way to go, according to Hopkin. “Infrastructure service costs, supply reliability, quality and maintenance remain of major concern. Hotels require a safe, reliable and adequate supply of potable water in order to provide a consistent, quality service to their customers.” he said, adding that there are still many obstacles in the way, among which are bureaucracy and partnerships between public and private entities that need to be strengthened. However, improvements, cooperation and best practices are not impossible as he demonstrated by mentioning examples of community participation in public projects.
Mr Hopkin concluded his address with a set of detailed recommendations for financing water and sanitation services in the region, focusing on tax incentives and adequately managed public-private partnerships.