Secretary-General of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), Taleb Rifai, says the Caribbean cannot continue to pursue all-inclusive resort development if tourism is to play an integral role in the development of the region’s states.
Speaking on day two of the Global Conference on Jobs and Inclusive Growth: Partnerships for Sustainable Development, at the Montego Bay Convention Centre, St James, Tuesday, Rifai underscored that all-inclusive resorts had become similar to “modern-day plantations”.
“We cannot continue to build five-star hotels in three-star communities,” he underscored. “We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen. That’s a very important message we have to keep in mind.”
“We have to continue to lower the walls between the host communities and visitors. We cannot let our visitors live in bubbles. That is not acceptable anymore,” he said to rousing applause. “We cannot continue to promote modern-day plantations in our own countries called exclusive resorts. That is not the model we are looking for at all.”
The Secretary-General emphasised that in the final analysis, tourism is about the development of people and called for communities to be empowered to play a greater role in the industry.
Rifai also called for greater partnerships with the private sector in tourism, noting that the sector will not achieve its sustainable development goals without closer collaboration with private businesses.
“We cannot achieve community empowerment without full cooperation of the private sector and the owners of infrastructural businesses,” he said.
The Secretary-General added that in order for the sector to garner more attention and receive more help, it has to demonstrate its relevance to other sectors.
“Building walls between nations is not a solution at all,” he said, pointing out that the conference is an opportunity to address those issues.
Delivering the keynote address at the opening of the conference, Prime Minister of Jamaica, Andrew Holness also underscored the importance of people in tourism.
“Tourism is fundamentally a people based activity,” the Prime Minister said.
“Careful planning of human resources, with private enterprises and employee representatives, is needed to ensure that tourism can fulfil its employment creation potential and has a sufficient supply of suitably skilled labour to meet future growth,” he continued.
Holness said creating a tourism industry that enhances opportunities for local communities to leverage their cultural and natural assets and benefit from employment in tourism activities will help to achieve inclusive and sustainable growth.