Minister of Tourism and International Transport, Kerrie Symmonds, believes that more academic research is needed on local and regional tourism.
He shared his views on this during his feature address at the opening of the fourth Caribbean International Tourism Conference, held at the School for Graduate Studies and Research, University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, today.
The conference is being held under the theme Navigating the Destination of the Future.
Minister Symmonds told the audience, which comprised academic and industry experts, that he believed it was critical for “the tourism of tomorrow to be anchored firmly in partnership with academic expertise and scholarship” in a way that it has never been.
Stating it was a “fairly easy sell” to get people in freezing countries interested in visiting the warm Caribbean, he pointed out that the industry was indeed a serious business for serious people, impacting a serious civilization. However, he lamented tourism hasn’t always been treated as such.
Consequently, he queried: “Where is the study on the carrying capacity of tourism in this country? Where is the conclusive and definitive study on that?”
Stating that he has not seen any studies at the regional level also, he pointed out: “In Venice and in Barcelona that is the challenge facing those cities. The threat of over tourism and the impact that it has on your physical infrastructure, …on your utilities, …on the capacity of your sewage systems and sanitation, and all those things that have to carry the sector.”
The Tourism Minister stressed that these were serious issues on which the Caribbean could not afford to remain silent, and insisted that this is why a partnership, rooted in academic understanding and intellectual rigour, was necessary.
“There is still, even at the level of regional ministers of tourism, an element of ‘guesstimation’ with regards to what is the spend, the true calculation of the spend that visitors are making in the region.
“We all know visitors come here by cruise and long stay experience and obviously they purchase goods and services, and they contribute to our economy. We know that, but can we specifically and definitively calculate it? …What then is it, in Barbados for example, has to be spent in order to make sure we have the requisite degree of structural support to accommodate the additional residents we have on our island?” he asked.
He also queried the “spend” on ensuring the island has an adequate degree of structural support to accommodate the additional visiting residents, especially when the country was “struggling to make it right” for its citizens by providing general utilities, such as water supply and sanitation services.
“These are real discussions that have to be engaged in, and we can only do this sensibly and seriously if we do it in partnership with the degree and capacity of research that is generated by the University of the West Indies,” Minister Symmonds asserted.