Today the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) joins the world in recognizing and celebrating Earth Day.
We have been blessed with a beautiful environment, in which to live, work and invest. We welcome over 25 million visitors, who, for generations, have been coming to our region for rest, relaxation, respite and rejuvenation.
We have also been fortunate to have leaders in the tourism sector who remain conscious of the need to balance the pursuit of economic prosperity with the preservation and conservation of our historic structures, waters, forest areas, caves, mountains and wildlife. The trend toward more mixed-use construction in the tourism and travel sector is much welcomed; however, the level of awareness on the impact of our actions as a sector on the environment needs to be lifted significantly.
We at the CTO have been playing our part to ensure that our partners are more sensitive to the environmental issues in tourism, as well as the links between sustainability and our long-term success as an industry. Through our sustainable tourism product specialist, we have been able to institute and support a number of major initiatives.
The Caribbean Hotel Energy Efficiency Action project (CHENACT), a collaborative project with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the CTO and the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA), has the potential to save participating hotels hundreds of thousands of dollars in energy costs. Through sustainable destination management the Sustainable Destinations Alliance of the Americas, launched in March 2014, is harnessing the power of travel and tourism as a force for good in the Americas.
Our CTO Sustainable Tourism Conference, as well as the St. Eustatius Sustainable Tourism Conference, and the recently held Grenada CREST SYMPOSIUM for Innovators in Coastal Tourism, have served to highlight key issues affecting tourism sustainability, while the Caribbean Excellence in Sustainable Tourism Awards, has brought recognition to many individual tourism-related enterprises in member countries that go the extra mile to incorporate green practices in their value proposition with exemplary success.
We continue to use our annual youth symposium and student colloquium to challenge youth to think of ways to preserve the industry for future generations. These and other investments in education and public awareness are also key pillars in our sustainable tourism strategy, to ensure we have a constant stream of thought leaders to champion this important cause.
Another reality which keeps our attention is the fact that climate change and environmental degradation are often the result of the combined impact of millions of small, irresponsible acts.
We join the rest of the environmentally-conscious world in lobbying for a new international climate change agreement backed by supportive and where necessary, punitive national initiatives that encourage more responsible environmentally friendly behavior. Each individual, household, business and nation has to do its part to take care of our environment, now and always. We must always remember that there is a linkage between our ecosystem and its appeal as a tourism product, and the quality of life we enjoy in the Caribbean. The message to all tourism players in our beautiful region is therefore clear: To whom much is given, much is expected.