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|Guyana’s commitment to sustainable use of its natural resources unswerving|
|Sunday, 15 April 2012 23:15|
… says CTO Chairman Richard Skerritt
THE much-anticipated 13th Annual Caribbean Conference on Sustainable Tourism Development (STC-13) opened last evening with St. Kitts and Nevis Minister of Tourism and International Transport, and the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) Chairman, Richard Skerritt, recognising Guyana’s commitment to the protection and sustainable use of its natural resources.
For the second time, the prestigious conference, which runs until April 18, 2012, is being held in Guyana, this time under the theme ‘Keeping the Right Balance: Sustaining Our Resources’.
It attracted more than 200 delegates, who will gather at the Guyana International Conference Centre (GICC) at Liliendaal, Greater Georgetown, to seize the opportunity to examine how CTO member states can design and implement sustainable tourism policies and programmes. More than 30 international regional and international media operators are also here.
Speaking at the opening, Skerritt firstly thanked the government and people of Guyana for willingly hosting the event, and reminded that it is the second time the conference is being held in Guyana, having hosted STC-4 in 2000, and he noted that no other CTO Member country has done this.
“We are all very well aware that the world of travel and tourism has changed both dramatically and fundamentally over the past 12 years,” the CTO Chairman stated.
Adding, “But the fact that Guyana is the first country to welcome back STC is a strong indication, in my opinion, that what has not changed is Guyana’s commitment to the protection and sustainable use of its natural resources.
“It is not by accident, therefore, that since STC-4, Guyana has emerged as a leader on the world stage in the battle to reduce global carbon emissions. I believe it was the result of a deliberate decision by the leadership of this proud country to stand up and be counted in the global fight against the vast extremes of climate change, and of course, lead by example,” he said.
He said with the urgent economic imperatives and critical fiscal challenges confronting the Region, “Guyana could easily have succumbed to the temptation to expand the extraction of timber and other resources from its vast rainforest for economic gain”.
“But recognising the long-term, negative impact of deforestation, Guyana has been convinced it ought not to be forced to choose between short-term development priorities and climate change,” he stated.
He said even with the scary storm clouds of recession still hovering in the Region, and the loud insistent calls that they must get their economic houses in order quickly “the Guyana government still chooses to protect virtually its entire 40 million acres of rainforests.”
“This means an approximately 80 percent of the natural land asset of Guyana is being preserved through deliberate and responsible decision-making by its government,” he told the gathering.
“It is therefore my pleasure today to add to the global appreciation and applause for the Guyana government and people for placing such high value on your biodiversity conservation, eco system management, and climate adaptation efforts,” he extended.
He said Guyana’s initiatives in this regard are yet another example that the Caribbean is not hamstrung by its size and can lead the world, adding, “The good news is that Guyana’s decision to better manage its vast and forest resources and to be responsible in its development strategy is attracting more attention from the world of travel and tourism, especially the adventure tourism markets”.
Alluding to this year’s conference theme, he said, “The case of Guyana is an example that it is our God given natural asset and our rich cultural heritage that best distinguish the Caribbean from our competitors, and that responsible tourism is actually good for business,” he said.
The CTO Chairman said through the continuity and growth of this conference, CTO has been sending a clear and profound message to the Region, that it is vital that the Caribbean become truly dedicated to sustainable tourism practices, in order to maximise the economic benefits for all stakeholders.
“It is now well-established that tourism growth cannot be sustained unless today’s interests are balanced with the vital needs of tomorrow. This is why CTO is playing such a leading role in promoting tourism awareness among our people, and in establishing minimum standards for preparing and delivering the outstanding natural tourism products of our Region,” he insisted.
Minister Skerritt said the annual conference focuses on the opportunities and benefits that exist through tourism for the development of local communities and how to manage the environmental and social risks involved.
Guyana’s Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce (ag) Irfaan Ali, who is also the Minister of Housing and Water, in extending a warm welcome to the visitors to the destination, said “Sustainable tourism, sustainable development, environmental management and creating the right balance between economic development and nature has become one of the most crucial and important global issues, and from the high level of presence from the media, you can see that the Caribbean is no exception.
“It is my greatest pleasure to welcome you on behalf of the government and people of Guyana to Guyana, regarded as the heart of eco tourism,” he said, insisting that it is a country on a positive trajectory towards sustainable development.
Chairman of the Tourism and Hospitality Association of Guyana (THAG) Daniel Gajjie also joined in welcoming the delegation and participants of the conference.
The opening ceremony began with the parade of the flags of the 32 member states of the CTO, by the Guyana Defence Force, and the programme also included dance items by the Guyana National School of Dance. There is also an exhibition of Guyana’s art and craft and fashion designers.
Among those present were Secretary-General of CTO Hugh Riley; members of the Diplomatic Corps, members of the private sector and ministers of government both local and Regional.
The conference will involve two days of panel discussions and learning sessions, focusing on climate change and biodiversity. This will be balanced by visits to Guyana’s tourist attractions.
|Last Updated on Sunday, 15 April 2012 23:56|
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