Kenneth Bryan, President of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO), speaking to senior tourism and government officials, scientists and members of the media from across the region who gathered last week, stated that hurricanes and hazards climate-related threats threaten the development of the region and its tourism sector, and that preparedness and mitigation are of paramount importance.
He further argued that, as a counterbalance to life in one of the world's most desirable tourist destinations, "the price we pay for living in the beautiful Caribbean is that we face a variety of climate-related threats that can have enormously detrimental effects." effects on human life, property, livelihoods, business, investment and the environment”.
Minister Bryan encouraged the Caribbean, and by extension the regional tourism sector, to address the significant effects posed by global climate change and its related impacts, such as dry spells and droughts, which affect the ability to provide adequate water resources; heat waves that have health implications for both tourism employees and visitors; and sea level rise, which is accelerating beach erosion and increasing the vulnerability of tourism facilities, many of which are located in low-lying coastal areas.
In addition, he stated that rising sea surface temperatures have contributed to coral bleaching and the eventual mortality of this valuable natural resource, which he noted is not only a key tourist attraction, but also serves as an essential nursery for declining fish populations. President Bryan, Minister of Tourism and Ports of the Cayman Islands, was addressing a virtual CTO Forum, the first in a series on disaster preparedness and climate resilience, as part of preparation activities for the Atlantic hurricane season of 2023.
The CTO Forum brought together experts from the Caribbean Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH) and the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) to discuss the 2023 seasonal forecast and share mitigation and preparedness strategies. Best practices for hazard response and recovery, which are just as important, will be covered in the next forum.
In the Caribbean context, natural disaster risk management and construction resilience to climate change, according to President Bryan, are based on the same intervention methodologies, based on safeguarding lives, livelihoods, property and investments. Even as the region navigates through the vestiges of COVID-19, the development of a sustainable tourism industry, President Bryan stated, “requires a multi-pronged approach that must include the formulation of adequate protection policies”.
The head of the intergovernmental agency affirmed that success "requires that both the government and the private sector work collaboratively in the development of plans and strategies to reduce risk and vulnerability." Even more important, he urged a proactive approach to implement the actions necessary to increase the resilience of destinations and “by extension, our tourism sector through actions such as infrastructure improvements; investments in early warning systems; participate in joint promotion; effective communication and media management before and after times of crisis; and education and awareness for visitors and residents alike, all supported by robust digital technology and information communication systems.”
He noted that tourism is a powerful economic engine, boosting the economies of the region, driving new business and investment, providing linkages with other economic sectors, and generating essential tax revenue for building infrastructure and government services. Given this fundamental reality, Bryan urged participants to be proactive and rigorous in taking the actions necessary to enable long-term tourism resilience.
The president of the CTO called on the region to renew its commitment and responsibility to safeguard the people and visitors within the region, the planet, the properties and the investments in infrastructure, "which will guarantee that this Caribbean paradise to which we all call home remains competitive globally and maintains it’s as a safe destination to live, visit and invest”. The 2023 Atlantic hurricane season is expected to be "close to normal." Experts suggest there will be 12 to 17 named storms and five to nine hurricanes this year, with one to four major hurricanes.