United Nations (U.N.) World
Tourism Day, held on Sept. 27 this year, offered an opportunity to focus on the
importance of tourism as a force for transforming people and societies, and several
organizations did just that.
In an official message, U.N.
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that the potential for tourism to influence
sustainable development is considerable. “As one of the world’s
leading employment sectors, tourism provides important livelihood
opportunities, helping to alleviate poverty and drive inclusive development,”
The theme for the U.N. World
Tourism Organization (UNWTO) this year is “One Billion Tourists, One Billion
Jamaica’s Tourism Minister
Wykeham McNeill said the theme highlights how vital tourism can be to the
economic well-being of a destination. Perhaps nowhere is that more true than in the
“Our tourism sector continues
to do well. It is the leading earner of foreign exchange. It attracts
investments and provides employment for thousands of Jamaicans,” McNeill said.
In the Caribbean region,
annual visitor numbers are approaching the 30 million mark, a goal the Caribbean
Tourism Organization (CTO) hopes to reach by the end of 2017. In 2014, a record
26.3 million people traveled to the region, an increase of 5.3% over 2013,
according to data from the CTO.
Tourism is the No. 1
generator of foreign exchange for the region and “is responsible for
approximately 33% of our gross domestic product,” said Hugh Riley, the CTO’s
“Tourism continues to present
the greatest opportunity for the countries of the Caribbean to create jobs,
generate tax revenue and spawn new, locally owned businesses,” said Emil Lee,
president of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA).
“When we look at the impact
of tourism on gross domestic product and employment, with more than 2.2 million
jobs in the region attributed to tourism, there is no question that tourism is
our region’s main economic driver,” Lee said in a statement.
The CHTA and CTO are working
together to collaborate in a public-private sector initiative to improve the
competiveness of tourism and to attract more visitors as a means of job
creation and debt reduction.