Commonwealth countries must unite on tackling climate change to protect their tourism industries, Secretary-General Patricia Scotland urged ministers and senior officials this week.
Secretary-General Scotland met with members of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO), led by its Secretary-General and CEO, Hugh Riley. The delegation included Montserrat’s premier, Donaldson Romeo, the Bahamas’ minister of tourism and chairman of CTO, Obediah Wilchcombe, St. Lucia’s minister of tourism, Dominic Fedee, Anguilla’s parliamentary secretary for tourism, Cardigan Connor, and other senior officials from tourism ministries and organisations.
The emerging concern was the intensifying impact of climate change on the region’s tourism industry.
Speaking of the challenge of recovering from the recent hurricane Matthew, Mr Wilchcombe stressed the need for international support. He said: “The question is how do we receive support and how does the world respond having been a part of the climate change summit, discussing with world leaders the fact that we can be among the countries that are wiped away because of climate change?”
The Secretary-General reiterated the Commonwealth’s commitment to addressing the challenge.
“For many of our members in the Commonwealth, tourism is the lifeblood of their economy. But they are facing multiple challenges, including climate change, in protecting and growing this vital industry. This is why we are prioritising climate change initiatives such as the climate finance access hub to ensure countries can access the billions pledged for climate action.”
She added: “It is also critical that countries unite on these issues and share what works and what doesn’t.”
The officials also raised concerns about the Zika virus. They discussed the negative impact misreporting on the spread of the virus was having on tourist numbers to the region.
Thanking Secretary-General Scotland for her leadership, Mr Riley said: “The Commonwealth Secretariat has always been a friend of the Caribbean, but if I could risk to say that, now that the Secretary-General is someone of Caribbean heritage, I think we are proud of that fact and we certainly can say that we have a blood relation in the position of Secretary-General of the Commonwealth.”
The Secretary-General was also complimented by Mr Romeo, who said: “I am impressed with her advocacy and I understand better now how important it is for us to really take this Commonwealth teamwork seriously.”