KINGSTON, Jamaica - Tourism and disaster management stakeholders across the Caribbean are collaborating to implement a master plan to protect the region's tourism industry against the impact of natural disasters.
Under the project, a Regional Disaster Risk Management (DRM) Strategy and Plan of Action for the Tourism Sector will be developed, through the collective input of regional and national tourism and disaster management interests.
To this end, a series of one day workshops are being staged in five pilot territories to bring tourism and disaster management practitioners together for discussions on the development of the strategy.
The first of these was held this week in Kingston where Jamaica's Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, Jennifer Griffith noted that tourism was regarded as vulnerable to natural disasters, but in the same vein, was deemed one of the most resilient sectors.
"We (in the tourism sector) tend to recover in a reasonable timeframe after there is any sort of natural disaster; we have the ability to bounce back. Here we had our recent example of Hurricane Dean, and we were forced to bounce back in a relatively short period of time, and thankfully we were able to," she said.
Director General of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), Ronald Jackson, who also addressed the workshop, pointed out that the region is 65 per cent dependent on tourism and coastal resources and described as "unnerving" the fact that the Caribbean is 'highly vulnerable to hurricanes, tropical storms, and the much talked about tsunamis".
"We note that our tourism product is heavily concentrated on the coastline and not as diverse as we ought to have it. Hence, there is really a need for us to look at mainstreaming disaster risk reduction in the sector. There's a need for us to look at how we will ensure that the product, which we are so dependent on, remains sustainable and viable," he said.
The initiative is being spearheaded by CDERA, with support from the IDB which is funding the project. The Caribbean Tourism Organisation, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ), and the University of the West Indies (UWI) are the other key stakeholders involved in the development of the project.
The strategy will seek to harmonise national practices to promote region-wide sustainable tourism and foster the transfer of knowledge, skills and experience on key issues of disaster risk management. It is expected that the strategy will provide the model for the development of future national disaster risk management strategies and action plans for the tourism sector in the Caribbean.
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