Dear Barbadians and Visitors,
Every year, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) celebrates Tourism as the largest global industry.?? Despite the fact that 2009 was a year of decline in tourism, the industry accumulated an impressive total value in international export earnings of $US 852 billion.
The prime objective of World Tourism Day is to foster awareness among the international community to challenges outlined in the Millennium Development Goals and to highlight the contribution tourism can make towards the achievement of those goals.
Each year, on September 27, the UNWTO brings under the microscope, a theme and an associated activity in a chosen country, which are of vital importance to the tourism industry, but which have not received the attention it deserves.?? Previous themes have included:
- Tourism Opens Doors for Women;
- Tourism and its Response to Climate Change; and
- Tourism and Diversity
This year, the theme is ???Tourism and Biodiversity’, and China will serve as the official host for the celebrations.?? The main activity in China will be a High-Level Dialogue to examine the methodologies for integrating biodiversity protection into sustainable tourism.
In the Ministry of Tourism, we view the celebration of yet another World Tourism Day as a perfect opportunity to focus on the myriad achievements of this vastly important industry, both globally and right here in Barbados.
The theme "Tourism and Biodiversity" commands us to focus our attention more closely on biodiversity as an indispensable and integral part of our day-to-day life and the life of our nation.
Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity put it succinctly when he said:
"The powerful forces that shape the essence of tourism, including the human urge to see and experience the natural world, must continue to be harnessed to support the achievement of the goals of the Convention."
Over time, we in Barbados have come to understand and appreciate the meaning behind those words, as we have sought for years to chart a path towards a sustainable tourism product.??
This journey is premised on the priority of preserving our ecosystems and becoming party to a range of conventions targeting the need for protection of the natural environment.?? The most pertinent of these conventions to Barbados, in terms of protecting biodiversity, is the Montreal Protocol of the Vienna Convention, which established legally binding controls for developed and developing nations on the production and consumption of Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS).
We are privileged to live in an environment that can be considered to be relatively clean and healthy by world standards.?? Barbadians and visitors can swim with turtles and enjoy the breathtaking sights of underwater marine life through snorkelling and scuba diving activities in clean waters; watch in wonder the aerial manoeuvres of migratory birds; experience the unique vegetation of the island’s gullies via the Aerial Trek Zipline Adventures; observe spectacular sunsets through clear skies and marvel at the natural splendour of underground water-carved limestone formations at Barbados’ number one attraction?? – Harrison’s Cave, made even better by a four year refurbishment project.
The Ministry of Tourism has done its part with a limited budget to promote the environment as a tourism attraction through its development of the Tourism-in-the-Gully and Sundown Beach Walk Projects. These initiatives, now transferred to the Ministry of the Environment, Water Resources and Drainage, seek to educate Barbadians and visitors on the methodologies for conserving marine and plant life.
In the words of Taleb Rifai, Secretary – General of UNWTO:
"Tourism and biodiversity are mutually dependent. UNWTO wishes to raise awareness and calls upon the tourism stakeholders to contribute their part of the global responsibility to safeguard the intricate web of unique species and ecosystems that make up our planet."
I call on all Barbadians and visitors to heed these words and make Barbados memorable not only for its built heritage and other tourism attractions, but for the ongoing respect for and preservation of its natural environment.?? Our very existence depends on it.