The secretary general of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, Hugh Riley, has called on tourism interests in the Americas “to educate our populations to the true potential of this marvellously resilient, yet incredibly vulnerable industry”.
In an address to the 19th Inter-American Travel Congress, the CTO secretary general warned of “the danger of ignorance”, saying it posed as great a threat to tourism as any major peril.
Some of these include crime, civil unrest, terrorism, political instability, burdensome taxation, food-borne illnesses, communicable diseases and climate change.
“We cannot meaningfully discuss the involvement of our communities in tourism without accepting our fundamental responsibility to teach them about tourism.
“I submit that failure to do so is as great a danger as any other that we have identified,” Riley told the audience which included the Salvadoran president, Mauricio Funes and the Secretary General of the Organisation of American States José Miguel Insulza.
He stressed that education did not mean “creating a tourism practitioner out of every citizen in the Americas” but that the children in the hemisphere must be taught from an early age, the role they play in tourism.
“I am suggesting that an essential step to sustaining our tourism industry lies in reaching into our primary and secondary schools, and unleashing the power of those young, creative minds at a very early age,” continued Riley.
“Giving them a clear understanding of the role they play in the success of this industry is sometimes as basic as helping them to understand what a tourist really is, and how one expects to be treated.”
In his address entitled Challenges of Sustainable Tourism in the Americas, secretary general Riley also focused on the importance of involving communities, stressing “our people are the core of our industry and the mirrors of our culture”.
Sustainability, he said, depended largely on engaging the community.
Inter-American Travel Congress
The 19th Inter-American Travel Congress, organised by the OAS and the Government of El Salvador, brought together high-level tourism authorities from Americas to discuss tourism as a vehicle to fight poverty.
The CTO, the region’s tourism development agency, had the notion of sustainable tourism engrained in its mission statement when that statement was crafted 22 years ago.
Tourism in the region will be celebrated by World Travel Awards later this month when Sandals Royal Caribbean in Montego Bay, Jamaica, plays hose to the annual Caribbean & the Americas Gala Ceremony.