MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica, CERN - There is need for a consistent regional campaign to replenish the tourism industry with new ‘blood` if the bread and butter industry of much of the Caribbean is to survive, tourism experts said as a regional encounter of media and tourism industry figures began here Friday.
The chairman of the Caribbean Alliance for Sustainable Tourism (CAST), Royston Hopkin, has criticised the annual ‘one-off` tourism days and tourism weeks as a means of whipping up support and interest in the industry.
“(There) has to be an articulated campaign which is designed to motivate our populations to recognize the importance of this industry which is driving the economies of all our islands,” he told CERN shortly after the opening of the Caribbean Media Exchange on Sustainable Tourism (CMEx), which runs until Sunday.
The seven-year-old CAST, a subsidiary of the 100-member Caribbean Hotel Association (CHA), collaborates with the hotel industry to promote effective management of natural resources.
CAST also wants improvements in tourism education and called on the University of the West Indies (UWI) to upgrade its bachelor`s degree programme in hotel administration and provide more advance programmes. He warned that if the Caribbean does not boost its ability to train and educate its own peoples to serve the industry that currently brings in US$20 billion annually, the region runs the risk of importing skills to manage its own industry.
Hopkin suggested that the private and public sectors will have to walk hand-in-hand to create a tourism education partnership.
For a start, Hopkin wants the public sector in tourism-driven economies to demonstrate “political will” by implementing a one-year-old study by the Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) to teach tourism in schools.
“At that point you have to have the political will to influence those programmes but the study is done and by the time you are ready to institute it, we might have to go and update the study,” said Hopkin, a veteran Grenadian hotelier.
Hopkin is one of the participants at CMEx whose theme is “Maximising the Economic Impact of Tourism.” With the World Travel and Tourism Council projecting that in 2013, the Caribbean`s tourism industry will employ 975,000 persons or 5.3 per cent and travel and tourism together accounting for 2.9 million jobs, CHA Executive Director Alex Sanguinetti also regards tourism education as a major lever in preparing the region`s tourism workers.
“It is critical to do this because the work force must be allowed to participate and feel and experience the benefits if we are to succeed,” he said. In the Caribbean during 2002, there were 567,000 people directly employed or 3.7 per cent of the region`s labour force in the tourism industry and 1.8 million or 12 percent by both travel and tourism industry.
Regional and international journalists, programme-makers and tourism officials are discussing issues related to the future of the region`s biggest money-earner. Among the talking points are the use of sustainable development to fight poverty, expanding the social and economic benefits of tourism, keeping tourism revenues up in economic down-times and a debate on whether the Caribbean`s cruise sector is either “friend or foe”, and the link between sex-tourism and HIV/AIDS.
CMEx is produced by Counterpart International, its Barbados-based partner, Counterpart Caribbean, Caribbean Hotel Association, Caribbean Alliance for Sustainable Tourism, Air Jamaica, Caribbean Hotel Association Charitable Trust (“Life Needs the Caribbean”), EarthVoice and the Caribbean Broadcasting Union.