Today I am delighted to participate in Jamaica's observation of World Tourism Day 2012, under the theme "Tourism and Sustainable Energy: Powering Sustainable Development". As our nation joins the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and its global tourism partners in commemorating this symbolic day, it is in joint recognition of the global importance of tourism.
Locally, the tourism sector grew from a primarily exclusive industry reserved for a few wealthy travelers, who arrived mainly by ship from the United States and Europe. This main mode of transportation continued until the arrival of the Pan American World Airways (Pan AM) in 1930, providing Jamaica’s first air link to its major market and making way for the average traveler to visit Jamaica.
If you travel back in time with me a bit, in 1926 we recorded some 11, 619 visitors to Jamaica. Today we have a multibillion dollar industry that last year welcomed some 3 million visitors to our shores. Certainly tourism in Jamaica has grown significantly over the years and continues to show tremendous potential for further growth.
Not only have we seen the industry expand, but Jamaicans from all walks of life have been intimately involved in its growth and development over the years. As one of the primary generators of jobs in our nation, the tourism sector is both directly and indirectly responsible for providing thousands of Jamaicans with a livelihood. As such, the sector has become an integral part of our economy and vital to the continued development of our nation.
With this in mind we must endeavor to do our best to protect and preserve the viability of the sector as we work towards growth within a sustainable framework. This is the reason we observe World Tourism Day, to heighten the awareness of the general public to the importance and role tourism plays in our lives, as well as to our nation.
As we observe World Tourism Day 2012 with this intention, it is appropriate then that this year’s theme allows us to reflect on the impact of sustainable energy and the ways in which we can promote energy efficiency.
Energy efficiency is, simply put, finding ways to provide the energy services required in the various spaces in which we operate, at a decreased cost, while maintaining the same, or even achieving greater, efficiency. I am quite confident we can all relate to this as regular citizens and more so as tourism business operators.
Tourism services are such that they have to be provided at international standards, catering to and meeting the needs of travelers from across the globe. So we have to be innovative and forward thinking in our efforts to implement energy efficiency measures and sustainable energy solutions. I believe we have seen that innovation here today at Cottage 5 and it also exists in quite a number of our tourism properties.
In particular, Hotel Mockingbird Hill comes to mind, which in April of this year, was specially commended in the Caribbean Excellence in Sustainable Tourism and Sustainable Accommodation award categories by the Caribbean Tourism Organisation/ TravelMole Sustainable Tourism Awards.
As we look at Hotel Mockingbird Hill we can see it was modeled around an eco-friendly framework and so over the years they have implemented an extensive array of energy saving and environmentally friendly programmes. These no doubt have not only made a meaningful contribution towards a more sustainable tourism sector, but must have also significantly impacted their bottom line in a positive way.
Today, I want to encourage our tourism sector partners to seriously explore the use of alternative and sustainable energy sources, in our collective efforts towards the future sustainability of the tourism industry.
Energy strategies should ideally form a significant part of each entity’s Environmental Management Policy. So today is a good time to once again seriously consider plans to implement energy solutions in a manageable form that will allow you to monitor the performance and provide real readings on the effect on your bottom line.
As a sector, I am encouraging all our tourism partners to do what you can incrementally and over time to expand your energy options and increase your use of sustainable energy. We have entities of varying sizes and I realize the initial costs involved may seem daunting, but it may be that you need to retrofit your bulbs, install solar panels, implement waste water management systems plus a myriad of other solutions, some of which we have seen and heard about today.
One thing I am confident about is that the potential brand Jamaica has shown over the years, as it continues to attract and command global attention, tells me this industry has everything it needs to drive the economic development of Jamaica towards our realization of Vision 2030 and beyond.
Let each and every one of us play our part in ‘Powering Sustainable Development’ to the benefit of our sector, our society and nation at large.