In the wake of a changing climate and its growing threats to the region, CHTA’s CEO challenged regional governments, organizations and residents to stand firm and work together to mitigate the growing threats to the region. He cited the most recent unprecedented natural disturbances, hurricane Dorian in the northern Bahamas and sargassum seaweed as the latest examples which left unchecked could disrupt the region’s eco-socio-economic fabric within several generations.
Speaking at the second Tourism Resilience Summit of the Americas held under the theme “Building Tourism Resilience For Sustainable Development”, Frank Comito, CEO and Director General of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA), in his keynote address, affirmed the need to build resilience in the tourism industry.
Hosted by the University of the West Indies and the Global Tourism Resilience & Crisis Management Centre at the university’s Kingston campus, participants examined and explored the experiences, best practices, and lessons learnt from tourism climatic resilience initiatives around the world.
A veteran of 16 hurricanes and major tropical storms, Comito recounted how strong partnerships around planning and implementation can mitigate the impact of severe natural disturbances and help economies to rebound much faster. Comito cited examples of the strong public-private sector collaboration around crisis readiness and response in The Bahamas, built over a number of years resulting in protocols and procedures around disaster readiness, response and recovery.
CHTA has worked with many of the region’s public and private sector stakeholders on crisis management, response, communications, and a range of training and readiness activities, and provides tools and information to support those efforts.
In addition to discussing resilience as it pertains to the changing climate, Comito also promoted regional resiliency in the context of sustainability – from sustainable farming practices which promote good health and self-sufficiency to developing the gifts and talents of people on an ongoing basis.
Recognizing the goodwill and many laudable readiness efforts of industry stakeholders, he cautioned that “the clock keeps ticking, and today we are faced with a race against seemingly insurmountable odds to protect and enhance our lives and livelihoods and that of our children and future generations.”
Citing the UNWTO’s sustainability goals, Comito noted that tourism can be a force globally to address the most urgent and critical challenges facing mankind. He suggested that the Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre be a vehicle to seek and advance solutions collaboratively by all stakeholders. “Asking the right questions, seeking the right solutions, advocating for them, and sharing and implementing the right solutions. Collectively, collaboratively… around a common purpose,” he said.
“We’ve pockets of solid collaboration in the region, but are really missing the mark as far too many governments, organizations, institutions and companies work in silos. We must break that modus, as our common challenges and opportunities far outpace those things which prevent the region from working better together.”
“Monster storms, killer earthquakes, parching droughts, rising sea levels, life-threatening pandemics, cycles of economic expansion and collapse, crime, poverty – this and so much more can sap our spirit and our will to move forward,” said Comito. “But … we constantly bounce back from adversity with a resolve and determination to achieve the seemingly unachievable.”
He cited the resiliency of the six major destinations which suffered significant damage from hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017. The tourism sector bounced back, and most destinations are at 100 percent of pre-hurricane performance, with several now pacing to reach that by mid-2020, ahead of what had been projected to be four years to get back onto pre-hurricane tourism performance.
A full copy of CHTA’s CEO/DG remarks can be found here: FRANK COMITO SPEECH2ND TOURISM RESILIENCE SUMMIT OF THE AMERICAS.