THE overall disruption in the tourism sector brought about by COVID-19 provides an opportunity to redefine the direction of tourism investments for a more sustainable future.
That was the message the United Nations shared on its website (in part) on World Tourism Day which is celebrated Wednesday, September 27.
Minister for Tourism Dr. Ernest Hilaire shared a similar statement on Wednesday, adding that “while we reflect on the sector’s successes, we must also confront the environmental challenges it poses and the strain it places on our natural resources.”
Tourism plays “a significant role in our society offering the potential to transform lives and drive economic growth”, the minister said. However, he noted that the pandemic served as a stark reminder of the vulnerability of the sector.
The abrupt halt in international travel disrupted economies worldwide, further highlighting the need for sustainability in tourism development.
“It underscored the importance of a transition towards a more environmentally conscious society,” Dr. Hilaire said.
He added that “the shift towards a more sustainable tourism sector necessitates a systemic approach involving stakeholders across the entire tourism value chain. Embracing sustainable tourism presents us with a wealth of opportunities that we cannot afford to overlook. The UNWTO (United Nations’ World Tourism Organization) has identified investment as a critical priority for the tourism sector. It has called for targeted investments for people, for planet and for prosperity.”
“This calls for our government to invest in our people through education and skills, in our environment through sustainable infrastructure, and in our future by fostering innovation to enhance our competitiveness and build resilience, all aligned with our sustainable development goals,” Hilaire said.
The UNWTO, under the theme “Tourism and green investment”, Wednesday, highlighted the need for more and better-targeted investments for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the United Nations’ (UN) roadmap for a better world by 2030.
World Tourism Day 2023, the UNWTO noted, was a call to action to the international community, governments, multilateral financial institutions, development partners and private sector investors to unite around a new tourism investment strategy.
Bearing this in mind, Hilaire emphasized that “government is committed to attracting investments that incorporates sustainable and environmentally friendly practices. Therefore, I am pleased that this year’s theme underscores the importance of green investments in building a tourism sector that benefits the people of Saint Lucia while preserving our environment.”
Highlighting two significant initiatives that demonstrate government’s commitment in advancing sustainability, the minister said government introduced the Community Tourism Programme in 2022, geared towards increasing visitor interest and raising the standards of the island’s immersive, diverse and authentic offerings.
By focusing on the development of high-quality community-based experiences, the programme creates economic opportunities for nationals and communities, fosters social and environmentally friendly developments, and paves the way for innovative initiatives that fuel sustainable and inclusive growth, he said.
In addition to the Community Tourism Programme, the Ministry of Tourism is working diligently to finalize the Tourism Development Act.
Said Hilaire: “This groundbreaking legislation will not only improve the standards in the tourism sector, but also expand the scope of projects eligible for fiscal incentives and (broadens) the range of incentives available to the sector.”
Moreover, the Bill will also make special provisions for industry stakeholders committed to sustainable tourism practices, such as responsible wastewater management, reduction in the use of plastics, use of alternative energy equipment and reduction of the carbon footprint.
“This bill is not just a legal framework, it signifies our (unwavering) commitment to building a greener more resilient tourism sector. Our commitment to sustainability extends beyond our borders as we actively explore opportunities with international partners to enhance our green initiatives. By pulling our resources and expertise we can amplify the impact of our efforts and set an example for the world in sustainable tourism,” Hilaire stated.
“In conclusion, our commitment to sustainable tourism is not merely a policy, but a pledge to future generations. It is a commitment to preserve the natural beauty of our nation, create prosperity for our people, and lead the world in responsible tourism practices. Together we can write a new chapter in the history of tourism, one where economic stewardship and where the lessons learnt from the past challenges guide us towards a more sustainable and prosperous future,” Hilaire said.
How tourism should invest to contribute to the SDGs, according to the United Nations:
– For people by investing in education and skills
“Looking ahead, the global tourism workforce will require millions of hospitality graduates annually between now and 2030 and a further 800,000 jobs a year will require specific vocational training. For these reasons, we need to invest in people, as they are the foundation of tourism so that all those who wish to be part of the sector have the same opportunities to access quality tourism training, anywhere in the world.
– For the planet by investing in sustainable infrastructure and accelerating green transformation
Looking into the future, the need to reduce emissions provides an investment opportunity of $24.7 trillion in the green buildings sector of emerging market cities by 2030, in which hotels, resorts, and restaurants account for $1.5 trillion. In addition, tourism faces a lot more investment opportunities related to new solutions and technologies to decarbonize the sector as well as to ensure climate-resilient infrastructure through adaptation solutions.
– For prosperity by investing in innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship
Digitalization and innovation programs are a strategic priority to support particularly young people and women, which are critical to upskill the tourism sector’s workforce. Moreover, the global need to increase investments in programs that support and incentivize entrepreneurship and generate opportunities for innovations is highly need it in the tourism sector.”