Speaking at the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (BTMI) Visit Barbados Stakeholder Forum was Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary for Climate Change, Law of the Sea, and Small Island Developing States, Elizabeth Thompson. Also in attendance were tourism and sustainable development experts CEO of BTMI Dr. Jens Thraenhart; CEO of Travel Foundation, Jeremy Sampson; Managing Director of the STAMP Program in the Centre for Sustainable Global Enterprise at Cornell University, Dr. Megan Epler-Wood; and CEO of Sustainable Travel International (STI), Paloma Zapata.
Ambassador Thompson spoke on the topic of “Taking Tourism Forward Toward Sustainability and Climate Resilience,” as she outlined the ramifications that Barbados tourism is dealing with because of climate change as well as COVID-19.
The ambassador emphasized that now is when Barbados needs to make itself sustainable and resilient to deal with future potential issues before they arise.
“Resilience is essentially toughness. It is the capacity to face adversity, reduce its impacts, and recover from them well and in the shortest possible time,” Ms. Thompson said.
“By virtue of our vulnerabilities, small island developing states such as Barbados have exhausted the luxury of time to undertake lengthy philosophical contemplations of what remedial or adaptive actions can be taken to counter climate impacts,” she added.
The Ambassador said that sustainability is identified by three pillars – society, economy, and environment, as stated in the Seminal Outcome of the United Nations Rio Conference on Sustainable Development 1992. She further explained that tourism must use these pillars to identify its vulnerabilities in order to make itself sustainable. Her advice was for the tourism authorities to conduct an immediate in-depth study to meet this end.
Ms. Thompson shared some of her ideas on how Barbados may build a resilient tourism entity which included keeping a watchful eye on over tourism as constant growth remains the guiding factor of tourism policies. She said reinforcing the current tourism infrastructure must be done while keeping planning and growth in balance with the ability to provide transport, water, food, space, and other natural resources, all the while still keeping the country’s coral reefs and coastlines under protection.
In closing, Ambassador Thompson said that Barbados as well as CARICOM are too far behind to deal with climate change and that it is of utmost importance that the country begins building resilience to the effects of those changes now. Caribbean countries and Latina America are the world’s most disaster-prone regions – a challenge in any case but even more so to tourism-dependent nations.
On Tuesday, June 28, and Wednesday, June 29, BTMI and STI hosted two special climate action workshops to shine a light on the roadmap to net zero. These workshops aimed to accelerate the decarbonization of the island’s tourism operations by engaging a wide cross-section of the tourism sector in carbon removal, all to ensure that Barbados’ tourism development would be sustainably driven.
This second Visit Barbados Stakeholder Forum was held at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre on June 27, 2022.