WTTC chief bats for Caribbean sustainability
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Julia Simpson, President, World Travel & Tourism Council, addressing CHTA’s Caribbean Travel Forum
The president of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) wants to see a strong focus on environmental sustainability throughout the Caribbean.
Delivering a recorded address to stakeholders gathered for the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association’s (CHTA) Caribbean Travel Forum in San Juan, Puerto Rico this month, Julia Simpson endorsed policy solutions such as government incentives which reward businesses that adhere to environmental standards and are eco-certified.
The global travel leader also called for the embracing of technological advances to help the travel and tourism sector decarbonize. “Transport and accommodation providers can invest in sustainable fuels, eco-friendly designs and renewable technologies,” she advised, while asserting that climate change has a disproportionate impact in the Caribbean and “we need the global community to work together to mitigate its effects and reverse biodiversity loss.”
“You know for many people conservation now isn’t the only answer. We actually need to be putting things back and not just conserving what we have left. So many of these technologies you already have today. The issue is how can you use them at scale,” she commented.
Lauding the importance of the inaugural CHTA forum, which brought public and private sector representatives together for a day of presentations and dialogue, Simpson reasoned that despite the many challenges ahead, she was confident in the Caribbean and the travel and tourism industry.
But she warned: “We need to speak with one voice and sometimes lay down our differences. And if we get all this right, there is a big prize. Some of you may have seen a fantastic WTTC report where we predict that over the next 10 years the region could achieve an annual growth rate of 6.7%. This would make the sector worth almost US$100 billion by 2032 and bring 1.3 million new jobs to these beautiful islands. A monumental achievement that is within our grasp. It’s up to all of us.”
During her address, Simpson reiterated a call for a regional airline to help boost domestic and family travel and protect travel and tourism from the overdependence the region has on international visitors.
She also made the case for more flexible visas, showering praise on Barbados for its “Welcome Stamp”, which allows people to stay and work remotely for 12 months: “Not only did these visitors get to enjoy life in the Caribbean, they supported local businesses and the country’s economic recovery.”
While the Caribbean’s post-pandemic tourism recovery has been largely successful, Simpson expressed concern about the challenges of air connectivity between islands, the increasing cost of air travel for visitors visiting the Caribbean, climate change and the loss of nature. “But I am an optimist. I believe we can overcome these challenges.”