IDB Official Says Inclusive Approach will Improve Tourism

Country Manager for the Caribbean at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Therese Turner-Jones, says the region must take a more inclusive and environmentally sustainable approach to improve competitiveness in the tourism industry.

Speaking with JIS News, she pointed out that the global environment is not what it was 10 years ago, because of climate change, and, as such, requires new approaches to infrastructural development and coastal resilience.

“It is very important that climate change be mainstreamed as an idea when we are thinking about what kind of infrastructure we are building around tourism and that where we are putting our most important physical assets for tourism are well protected,” Ms. Turner-Jones said.

“Otherwise, we could end up like countries in the region that were recently affected by hurricanes and were, in many cases, stripped of economic activities, as the infrastructure was devastated,” she added.

The Country Manager suggested that a smarter approach must be taken in terms of “how we build, what we build, how we cool our buildings and how we generate energy”.

Ms. Turner-Jones said that a big cost to the tourism product in the Caribbean is energy, and practical solutions must be implemented to reduce the cost of electricity, with focus placed on renewable energy.

“So, the region must look at renewable energy as a way to reduce cost, and also having that conversation with developers about the types of hotels that they are building and what are their sources of energy and water, and making sure that we are putting in the kinds of infrastructure that make sense for the country,” she reasoned.

She argued that the region should consider creative ways of using technology to drive industry growth.

“We are living in a world where technology is driving every single industry, and tourism will not be exempted, so we must think of more creative ways to use technology in what we offer, whether it is in marketing, the way we communicate in what we offer on the creative industries side, and figure out how we can connect the visitors to musicians, artistes and all the creative talents that exist in the region,” Ms. Turner-Jones said.

She informed that the IDB will soon be hosting a regional policy dialogue with the Ministers of the region to discuss some of these matters and recommendations, in order to improve market share and increase economic benefit from the tourism sector.

“It would be good to think about what we can do in the Caribbean to create a model that is sustainable and can be replicated elsewhere in the world. We have an opportunity to do that because we have the geographic diversity that some other regions do not have. We also have highly talented and creative people that make our product very interesting, so we have a lot of assets to capitalise on,” Ms. Turner-Jones highlighted.

She emphasised that Caribbean countries have to seize opportunities as they are presented. “When we look at workers for the future for the Caribbean, in 2027 they have to be much different from those in 2017; they must be more globally oriented, speak languages and be more familiar with technology,” she said.