The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) is raising questions about the level of seriousness stakeholders in Barbados and the rest of region attach to protecting their bread and butter tourism industry against natural disasters.
CDEMA’s Executive Director Ronald Jackson placed the issue on the table as he expressed doubt over the region’s development practices in the industry, and risk management and environmental protection procedures.
Insisting that there was need for national and regional efforts through strategic partnerships, Jackson said: “We have to ultimately decide as a region if we want to survive together or die apart.”
“Despite our successes, there are still great challenges due to our failure to truly embrace the value proposition that is to be derived from institutional regional public goods and services. That is evident today in terms of our fight for survival as regional organizations,” he argued.
“Our governments were forward thinking when they created these institutions, but they have not remained committed to advancing and developing these institutions so they can truly serve the ambitions we have of sustainably developing our region.”
Jackson said there was a need for a national assessment of the risk for the tourism product, financing to support development of national strategies, action plans, tourism product diversification, advocacy for sector integration of risk and resilient planning.
“Part of the product assurance must be that we can say in the face of hazard we have created an environment where the visitor as well as the locals can be assured that we have the architecture and infrastructure to protect them,” he added.
Insisting that this could be achieved through partnerships, Jackson said it would also require several enabling elements, including policy, legislation, inclusiveness, data and financing.
He said with the industry contributing significantly to the region’s gross domestic product and job creation, it was important that measures be put in place to mitigate against natural hazards.
“Have we looked at infrastructure and the coastal degradation that is taking place, the lack of consideration to our natural environment from which we derive all of this well-being and benefits? We sound good on paper but if we look at our practices, are we truly delivering on this agenda for resilience? In some instances, tourism contributes directly to the erosion of our natural assets,” the CDEMA boss warned.
He was addressing the Fourth Caribbean International Tourism Conference at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Cave Hill Campus recently, under the theme Destinations partnering for resilience and success.
Jackson said sustainable development of the industry required research and recommendations that should not be limited to academics or the accommodation sector.
He added that any solution should be “strategic and focused, multi-hazard in context, results-based and must include crisis management, and vulnerability and risk assessments within the sector”.
Jackson suggested that countries identify what best practices were already being pursued by others and tailor them for their specific environment.
Questioning if tourism stakeholders were truly concerned about the implication of climate change and natural hazard on sustainable growth and development within the sector, Jackson added: “Is the tourism industry part of the problem, and, if so, how do they see themselves as part of the solution?”
The disaster management official warned that several areas should be considered in any sustainability plan, including what measures can be employed to ensure residents and visitors can cope in the face of climate change events.
He also called on stakeholders to consider the various climate conditions and how to manage them, including increased temperatures, as well as the implications for water availability to the industry.
“The tourism sector is one of the highest consumers of water. What tourism-related infrastructure is going to be needed in this future dispensation that we are challenged with?” Jackson said.
He called on those putting up structures to “move away from the monoliths that we are building on the beach to low density models”, incorporate renewable energy solutions, and accept a culture of water harvesting and reuse solutions as part of their risk management solution.
“Risk management is not a practice only for CDEMA. Risk management has to be incorporated into every key sector. What we are doing is trying to grow visitor arrivals, grow revenue, sustain the product, and we should ask ourselves what will challenge us from attaining that imperative, and that is managing risk,” said Jackson. (MM)