Andrew Holness, prime minister of Jamaica, has praised the potential of tourism as a tool of development, while warning growth in the sector must be sustainable.
He was speaking at the UNWTO-organised Global Conference on Jobs and Inclusive Growth: Partnerships for Sustainable Tourism, currently taking place in Montego Bay, Jamaica.
He said: “Tourism is key to social inclusion and the reduction of poverty – this conference compliments those ambitions.
“There has been a revolution in travel, in how people source their destinations, the places they want to stay, and what they want to experience.
“We are cognisant to this and understand that we must also change, in order to unlock the socio-economic benefits of tourism.”
Jamaica itself has seen strong tourism performance in 2017, welcoming over 3.3 million visitors in the first nine months of the year.
The country now expects total arrivals to surpass four million by the first week of December – breaking previous records.
Holness added: “We will be revitalising and redeveloping many of our tourism townships, developing our boardwalks and promenades, restoring our marinas, fixing beaches; while also paying attention to local infrastructure.
“We will modernise our towns, so that locals can benefit from the tourism product.
“The truth is that when we allow the lives of citizens to benefit from tourism, they create the product.
“The experience they create, of authenticity, is what brings the visitors.
“Tourism makes life better for our citizens.”
Holness also pointed to the concrete steps his government was taking to support the sector.
He continued: “In addition to road improvements right across the island, we will be building a by-pass road for Montego Bay.
“This will make it much easier to reach this, the tourism capital of Jamaica, and the tourism capital of the Caribbean.”
Echoing his comments, Taleb Rifai, secretary general, United Nations World Tourism Organisation, said: “Travel and tourism is bringing us together as never before, the world is much smaller, and therefore a better world.
“When we travel we contribute to bringing the world together.”
Rifai urged the Caribbean to come together as a single region, eliminating the “walls between nations to facilitate travel”.
Turning his attention to community involvement, he said the world could not continue “to build five-star hotels in three-star communities”.
He argued walls between communities and visitors to be lowered, allowing guests to engage with local people
“Resorts can be modern day plantations,” he added, “we must move aggressively and courageously against this”.
Find out more about the Global Conference on Jobs and Inclusive Growth: Partnerships for Sustainable Tourism on the official website.