Today, Jamaica joins in the global celebrations of World Tourism Day under the aptly selected theme by the United Nations World Tourism Organisations (UNWTO) “Tourism & Biodiversity”. As we acknowledge tourism as one of the world’s most successful industries, we also look to inform and educate our citizenry on the responsibility that comes with managing such a propitious sector. Our message today is a simple one “Everyone has a role to Play; Here’s What You Can do Today”.
The naturally rich and diverse flora and fauna with which Jamaica has been endowed, along with our equally rich culture and heritage are the main contributors to Jamaica’s positioning as a world class tourist destination. A prime example of our rich biodiversity in living colour is the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park. The park covers some 196,000 acres of government land and designated forest reserves which act as home to 150 resident and migratory bird species, of which the Jamaican blackbird, yellow-billed parrot, and ring-tailed pigeon are three of the twenty-eight bird species found nowhere else on Earth. Trees such as mahogany, cedar, mahoe and broadleaf grow in abundance, while tree frogs, giant swallowtail butterflies and the Jamaican hutia (also called the coney), Jamaica’s only land mammal, cohabit.
This is a microcosm of Jamaica’s biodiversity that should be seen as a national asset and the main resource and supporting framework of tourism. We are therefore mindful of the importance of the role we all have to play in preserving, conserving and restoring the elements that make up our tourism product. As we celebrate Tourism and Biodiversity, let us retain our focus on tourism belonging to Jamaica and by extension to all Jamaicans.
Gone are the days when travellers sought after the exclusive sun, sea and sand experience. Today’s international traveller wants a more authentic experience where they can interact directly with the indigenous people and culture of a destination. The people of Jamaica and the ways in which we relate to our biodiversity is a unique experience for the visitor. Protecting our cultural heritage and ecosystems from deterioration is protecting the future sources of economic growth for our nation.
As a driver for economic development, the tourism sector today still offers Jamaica its most positive source of economic recovery going forward. Tourism remains a primary source of employment and economic income for local communities and therefore provides adequate justification for exerting our efforts towards ensuring our surroundings are safeguarded.
As we celebrate World Tourism Day 2010, let us invest together in protecting our environment to secure our future tomorrow.

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