Former president Bharrat Jagdeo says the Caribbean must combine its traditional tourism products with other kinds of services in order to become a more sustainable and viable tourist destination, in his address at the 13th annual Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) Conference.
Jagdeo on Monday told the conference that with global temperatures expected to rise by four degrees above pre-industrial level, the forest and corals will die as the sea rises, resulting in the loss of beaches in the Caribbean. Tourism officials, he said, should endeavour to highlight this impending reality to governments who may not be fully aware of the severity of the issue.
The former president said he hopes that the conference will review a clear-cut plan to get the entire Caribbean, possibly through a single visa policy, to come into the different territories so that new institutes can be established, teaching the new culture of new markets.
“We have to be much more aggressive in how we pursue those markets because the only way we can be sustainable or economically, is if we aggressively pursue those markets… too many of our immigration officials think that they have to keep people from China and Brazil and India out of our markets…. Many of our tourism institutes and structures are not training people to deal with those tourists. Our language training, training on culture and food and customs, practices are lagging way behind those touring markets,” he explained.
Jagdeo also noted that in order to ensure that the Caribbean remains competitive in the tourism sector, other services, such as healthcare, must be combined with its already attractive natural beauty. “… Because of the cost of healthcare in North America and in Europe, people travel to destinations that can provide health tourism. How do we [take] the health industry and combine it with the beautiful tourism product that we have to make our region which is closer to North America – which has a distinct advantage over, say India, in terms of distance, and language, and food, everything else just as attractive as India- in providing health tourism?” he asked.
He then suggested exploring other types of tourism that will offer visitors something new and beneficial when they travel to the Caribbean. “What I’m advocating for is using, combining our traditional tourism products, with products, new products. I think a combination of the two will ensure that remain viable in the future and that we remain attractive, very competitive,” he said.
Innovative forms of financing tourism also need to be established, he said, adding that funds for climate change financing can be used in the tourism sector for green energy. “So cheaper energy through renewable supply, a renewable energy for many of the hotels, etc… funded by these international funds for adaptation and mitigation, using some of those funds to promote alternatives to polluting activities and the tourism sector has to think about how it will hack into those funds… [and] I hope will be considered at the conference itself,” he said.
Further, Jagdeo advised the CTO delegates to avoid drafting measures into a plan that usually fails to be realised. “Let us try to see how all of these areas we can have dedicated plans and we can work in partnerships with governments in the developing world as well as the developed world as well as among ourselves to ensure that our product is not only sustainable but it keeps growing and that it creates more wealth for our people and for those who invest in those sectors,” he explained.