Written by on November 29, 2017


Taleb Rifai addressing the UNWTO conference in Montego Bay

In a no-holds-barred speech yesterday, Secretary General of the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Taleb Rifai, urged Caribbean tourism stakeholders to stop promoting modern-day plantations called exclusive resorts.

“With regard to community involvement and internal agenda, there need to be no walls between the visitor and the community,” Rifai stated during day two of the UNWTO Global Conference on Jobs and Inclusive Growth, now on at the Montego Bay Convention Centre.

His comments were made in the presence of several all-inclusive hotel operators; the country’s prime minister, Andrew Holness; president of the Dominican Republic, Danilo Medina; Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett; and several other dignitaries representing the industry.

“We can’t let our visitors live in bubbles, that is not acceptable anymore,” Rifai told the gathering, emphasising that it was not the model that the UNTWO was looking for.

“We need to address these issues with great courage and great conviction, because it’s all about people at the end of the day and we need to move very courageously on that front.”

The opportunities in tourism, he stated, should carry the end result of inclusive economic growth, more and better, jobs, the distribution of wealth, shared prosperity and respect for each other.

Rifai was obviously not concerned about ruffling feathers as he warned against the practice of building five-star resorts in three-star communities, where the citizens were not part of the transformation.

‘People must feel that they are part of tourism’

“Tourism must be seen as a transformative tool, people must feel they are a part of it, they must feel empowered,” UNWTO Secretary General Taleb Rifai argued.

His message was in sync with the theme for the International Year of Sustainable Tourism, which is almost coming to an end and pertinent, he says, to the creation of a new road map, wherein tourism is an effective path to a better future for all people, leaving no one behind.

Sustainability, he explained, is about sustaining life on earth. “We have to move it into that direction. We need to understand that if we don’t progress, we regress.”

According to him, progress and sustainability should go hand in hand. Not either or, but a win-win equation.

Confident that the answer lies in strong, effective and transparent partnerships, he said that the conference was a unique opportunity to deliver on a new framework for global partnership for sustainable development through tourism.

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