The SLHTA enters 2020 well prepared with a new 3-year strategic plan and an exciting and engaging outline of planned 2020 events and activities.
Our focus will be on more personal engagement with our members throughout the year, not only in our quarterly general meetings but also with a variety of social mixers, committee, sector specific meetings and training initiatives.
We look forward to frequent exchanges with our public sector partners such as the SLTA, Events Saint Lucia and Ministry of Tourism in the interest of creating a highly desirable, easily accessible tourism product and delivering an outstanding experience to all of our overseas visitors and stay-cationers.
2020 will see a relaunch of DineAroundStLucia.com
We will continue to advocate for a fairer playing field for our members especially in regard to taxation where we are seeking a balanced approach that must include the non -formal accommodation sector and the cruise industry. We will continue to highlight areas of conflict between our members and various tourism sectors and proactively seek and recommend solutions. Building meaningful linkages with other economic sectors is an ongoing priority.
One of our greatest success stories is our St.Lucia Tourism Enhancement Fund which so far has injected over 5 Million Dollars in local projects and activities.
We want to take this opportunity to thank our hotels who kindly have agreed to collaborate with us and by extension the hotel visitors who voluntarily make this contribution.
It is our hope for 2020 to see more support and financial contributions for the TEF from our allied members.
Tourism does not operate in a bubble in which we are oblivious to the state of the nation and its citizens. Safety and security on land and water, health care, human rights, education, employment and entrepreneurial development are all important topics which we plan to tackle together with the St.Lucia Private Sector Council, a council which must rise from its current dormant state to fulfill its purpose.
Equally important not only to the SLHTA but the entire country are promoting environmental sustainability including climate change resilience, environmental management and disaster risk management. This includes greater advocacy for the protection of our marine life and coastal areas, reduction of our food import bill, responsible waste management and plastic reduction. Rising sea levels require a discussion about location of future tourism developments. We look forward to playing a proactive role in tackling these challenges together with a wide cross section of public and private sector stake holders.
In this era of digital innovation and increased consolidation, we recognize the importance to provide expertise and assist our members to excel in their business performance and also, to sensitize them to the fundamental shifts in global commerce and consumer behavior and how this may affect their bottom line.
Indeed, as an industry and tourism destination, we must be mindful that the profiles of our future visitors will be very different to that of their mothers and fathers. The attraction of sun, sand and sea will no longer suffice. Travelers of the future are looking for transformative experiences which will require of us to review and refine our product offerings and experiences.
Most importantly and as we could see in recent months, millions of people have been inspired by Greta Thunberg to start taking action on climate change. Protecting the environment has moved from a fringe issue for many to become one of the most important factors in planning a trip.
Although we are only at the very start of this shift, it is being led by a younger generation who will shape travel in the future so it so it would serve us well to pay attention to this evolving trend.
And what a paradox for us here in the Caribbean: On the one hand, the Caribbean contributes negligibly to global carbon emissions and our region bears the brunt of climate change impacts.
On the other hand and in the eyes of the traveler, we are part of the environmental problem, with tourism seen responsible for nearly one-tenth of all carbon emissions globally and with the hotel sector accounting for almost a quarter of all tourism emissions.
The SLHTA was the first National Hotel Association in the Caribbean to establish an environmental committee 7 years ago, because we knew then as we know now that our members must be engaged to play their part in transforming our operations to be more sustainable. As a matter of fact we are in discussions currently with the UK based Travel Foundation to have an environmental officer attached to the SLHTA in 2020 to allow us to progress further.
In a recent Forbes article, it was implied that in 2018, regional Caribbean tourism contributed 62 billion kg ( 62 million tonnes) CO2e to global emissions. Under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the global hotel sector is expected to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions per room per year by 66 percent by 2030 and 90 percent by 2050 compared to 2010 (ITP, 2017).
We are the most tourism dependent region in the World and we need our tourism businesses to continue to prosper. Yet, long haul flights make a huge part of global CO2 emissions ( read the recent UNWTO report here ) so expect future generations to want to stay closer to home unless their tourism destination of interest can prove to be environmentally conscious.
So let us start thinking zero-waste and carbon neutral as our new tourism industry standard as we enter this second decade of the 21st century.
Whilst keenly aware of the many potential local, regional and indeed global challenges not under our control, the SLHTA, together with our local, regional and international partners, will do whatever is possible to make 2020 a stellar year for our members and ensure that the benefits of tourism will reach far and wide into our economy. Tourism is not the business of a few, it is all of our business.
Happy New Year.