Concerned about the impact climate change could have on the island’s tourism industry, university officials are ramping up their efforts to create a more sustainable product.
Through the Sustainable Tourism, Optimal Resource and Environmental Management (STOREM) project, new and existing students of higher education institutions in participating countries will have the opportunity to carry out vital research and develop skills in the area of environmental protection.
The three-year project is being carried out in collaboration with the University of the West Indies (UWI), universities in Italy, France, Columbia and Costa Rica, associated partners, with an overall budget of €893,820 (BDS$2.2 million) from the European Union under its Erasmus+ programme.
At the end of the three years, at least two new Masters of Science programmes and courses in sustainable tourism and resource management will be developed and introduced or integrated into existing programmes.
STOREM Project Coordinator Anna Pinna, a professor at the University of Cagliari in Italy, said officials were “responding to a call” to help the regions of Latin America, African, Caribbean and Pacific states protect one of their most valuable natural resources.
Pointing out that tourism was a source of health for the Barbados economy but a finite one, she said “This is the reason why we have to talk about sustainability and the fact that we have to think about how to manage our resources in an optimal way.
“This means we have to think differently and about how we create and pass on our knowledge to young people. Young people have to be aware of what are the challenges that come from climate change,” said Penna, who added, “We can see clearly how tourism is imposing a pressure to the land. We have to think together how to manage these threats.”
She explained that the three-year project would consist of one year of planning and sharing of experiences, while year two would be dedicated to the development of course modules, workshops and establishment of observatories in each partner country.
Year three, she said, would consist of project reports, training for tourism professionals, a course evaluation workshop, and implementation of project quality assurance and student exchanges.
During a press conference on Monday at the UWI, Cave Hill Campus, officials said they were expecting between 35 to 40 people for the new MSc courses, which will last about a year-and-a-half.
Penna said the establishment of observatories in the participating countries would allow officials to continuously collect data and analyze it, with the hope that such research would help to influence policies at all levels.
“We are not just offering a new degree. It is really that we are offering some new skills and competencies which are useful for the territory, which are useful for firms and useful for administrations,” she said.
Lecturer at the Centre for Research Management and Environmental Studies (CERMES) Dr Janice Cumberbatch said she was hoping the programme would be a useful tool for relevant stakeholders to enhance the skills and knowledge of the staff.
“We are the most tourism-dependent region in the world, and as we try to support our national economies and our citizens’ livelihoods through tourism, we struggle to do this with challenges being presented to us by climate change.
“In this regard, we know that the work completed during this project will help us to develop tools, learning technologies and content and enhance the management competencies of regional higher education institutions,” she said, adding that the universities would be partnering with a number of stakeholders in the tourism industry.
“We want to be sure that the beach, the sand dunes, the forests, rivers and whatever else is there that the tourists and we locals want to enjoy, can still be enjoyed,” said Cumberbatch.
Welcoming the idea, Director of Tourism Development in the Ministry of Tourism Dr Kerry Hall said it was necessary that measures be put in place to sustain the region’s natural assets both for its people and for the bread and butter tourism industry.
“Without tourism the very survival of our nation will be called into question. So we have to put the measures in place today to secure our tomorrow,” said Hall.
“We need a cadre of environmental gladiators on the frontline to protect this nation. From everything I have seen in tourism so far that is the area I feel is the critical link that is missing,” she said.