Environmental focus could increase tourism earnings

Environmental focus could increase tourism earnings

BY KARENA BENNETT Business reporter bennettk@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

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HEAD of the European Union (EU) delegation in Jamaica, Ambassador Paola Amadei reckons that Jamaica could push tourism earnings over US$2.2 billion ($255.2 billion) through the adaptation of more environmentally focused strategies.

The ambassador's remark comes after Jamaica tied for last place with nine other countries at 128th position, including Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago and some desert nations such as Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, in the Global Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2015 for baseline water stress, which measures the ratio of total annual water withdrawals to the total available annual supply.

The country ranked 127th in environmental sustainability within the context of being described as the land of wood and water and also ranked very poorly (126) on its threatened species as a percentage of total species -- 11.7 per cent.

"I think there is more awareness among citizens on the impact of our activities, and the fact that you can market your industry as one which is environmentally conscious is a gain for the economy," Amadei told editors and reporters at this week's Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange at the newspaper's Beechwood Avenue headquarters in Kingston.

"It helps to bring additional attention to the country and in the long term it secures one of the main assets of the country," she said.

Today, Jamaica's tourism is the second highest earner of foreign exchange behind remittances.

Despite being poorly placed in environmental sustainability, over the years Jamaica has seen continuous increase in visitor arrivals, reaching a historic milestone when it welcomed its two millionth stopover visitor in December 2013.

That number grew by 3.6 per cent to 2.08 million visitors in 2014, mainly due to increased arrivals from Jamaica's three major source markets, which was facilitated by increased airlift from the United States, Canada and Europe, according to the recently released Economic and Social Survey Jamaica.

More recent reports from Tourism and Entertainment Minister Wykeham McNeill stated that Jamaica recorded a five per cent increase in overall visitor arrivals for the 2014/15 winter tourist season over the corresponding period last year.

According to Amadei, the country's celebration of World Oceans Day on Monday is another area where changes should be implemented in recognising the importance of environmental sustainability and climate change. She added that the EU has recently adopted a new regulation which aims to reuse single-use plastic bags as part of environmentally friendly practices.

"It's good for the economy because it creates business recycling, and it's very good for the environment if you look at its impact on the ocean and marine life," the ambassador told the Business Observer.

"It is also a very positive element to market the tourism industry and as a country that aims to attract tourists, there should be more thought about how to use environmental strategies as a way to attract international guests."

She noted that the implementation of environmentally focused strategies such as the recycling of single-use plastic bags and separation of garbage is ideal for Caribbean countries because of its limited budgetary impact.

"There are a number of countries in the EU and other parts of the world that have progressively implemented environmental strategies and they are not necessarily affluent. It's a question of policy choice and for awareness of the population. When the citizens become aware they put more demand on the respective authorities to make more conscious choices," she said.

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