President of the Dominican Republic speaks at the Conference on Partnerships for Sustainable Tourism
Tourism is one of the most direct ways to weave links between human beings, fostering the exchange of ideas and experiences
Speech by His Excellency, President of the Dominican Republic, Lic. Danilo Medina, at the Conference on Partnerships for Sustainable Tourism:
Honorable Lord Andrew Holness,
Prime Minister of Jamaica;
Honorable Mr. Allen Chastanet,
Prime Minister of Saint Lucia;
Honorable Lord Taleb Rifai,
Secretary General of the World Tourism Organization;
Honorable Mrs. Cecile Fruman,
Director of Commerce and Global Competitiveness Practice, on behalf of the World Bank;
Honorable Lord Alexandre Meira Da Rosa,
Vice President for Latin America and the Caribbean of the Inter-American Development Bank;
Distinguished Members of the Cooperating Institutions for the organization of this conference;
Honorable Members of the different International Delegations present;
Distinguished Members of the Government of Jamaica;
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a pleasure to be here in this beautiful city of Montego Bay and it is an honor to visit what for the Dominicans is and will always be the sister nation of Jamaica.
I want to thank the Honorable Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, for his personal invitation and the organization of this Conference on Partnerships for Sustainable Tourism.
As you know, tourism is one of the most direct ways to weave links between human beings, fostering the exchange of ideas and experiences.
And it is also a way to create connections between countries that until recently were not known, but that may have a great future in common.
I see many of the leaders of this great global exchange here, I see the great promoters of the tourism sector, both public and private.
And that makes me happy, because tourism, as well as being a creator of experiences, is a great driver of development for the countries that host it.
The truth is that, in just six decades, tourism has gone from being a small luxury industry to becoming a global mass phenomenon.
According to the figures of the World Tourism Organization, in 1950 tourism moved 2 billion dollars on a global scale, in the year 2000 it reached 495 billion dollars and, following this curve of accelerating upward, in 2015 it had reached already a trillion and a half dollars. This represents 10% of the World Gross Domestic Product.
In 2016, more than 1.2 billion tourists traveled the world and, according to figures from the World Tourism Organization for the year 2030, it is projected that the figure of 1.8 billion people will be reached.
To give us an idea, this means that tourism ranked third in world exports in 2015, after fuels and chemical products, and ahead of automotive products and food.
This is especially important for less developed countries, where tourism accounts for around 7% of goods exports and 30% of services exports.
Therefore, the economic impact of this phenomenon is so great that, directly or indirectly, it is responsible for approximately one out of ten jobs in the world, generating opportunities for progress for nations of all latitudes.
If we analyze this tourism growth by regions, we find that last year Asia and the Pacific grew by 9%, followed by Africa, with an increase of 8%, and the Americas, which grew by 3%.
In Europe, the most visited region in the world and therefore the most consolidated market, growth was 2%, and the only region that lost visitors, 4%, was the Middle East due to the political instability of the region.
In short, tourism has been distinguished by a virtually uninterrupted growth over time, despite occasional crises, always demonstrating its strength and resilience as a source of income generation.
Of course, it is no less true that exponential growth of this nature is accompanied by other challenges and threats. That is why it is so important that we stop to reflect.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This year 2017 that is about to end was declared by the United Nations as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.
A decision that we celebrate and that has contributed significantly to highlight the need to think in the long term and recognize that the future of this sector should not be left to improvisation.
Since the beginning of the International Year of Sustainable Tourism, dozens of decentralized events have taken place every month, in different parts of the world, but all aligned around a common purpose.
To achieve that this growing and full of opportunities industry is oriented more and more to the definition of sustainable tourism. That is, to a tourism that maintains a balance between social, economic and ecological interests; a tourism that integrates economic and recreational activities in order to seek the conservation of natural and cultural values.
The topics that have been discussed are many, diverse and interesting. From the future of resorts and gastronomic tourism, to the role of communication in sustainable tourism, wildlife and coastal conservation initiatives or the need to ensure accessible tourism for people with disabilities. This calendar has brought together tourism entrepreneurs from all over the world and of all sizes, from non-governmental organizations, academics, officials and technicians from multilateral institutions.
In addition to the meetings of the Regional Commissions and the General Assembly, activities on a larger scale were held.
For example, in Manila there was a World Conference on Sustainable Tourism Statistics, which is essential if we want to have objective data on which to move towards our goals.
In September, Montreal hosted the World Conference on Sustainable Tourism for Development and Peace and a Roundtable on Sustainable Urban Tourism was held in Madrid, something that undoubtedly interests the major European capitals, but also emerging countries that seek to diversify their offer.
In addition, before the Closing of the International Year of Sustainable Tourism we still have on the agenda the World Conference of the UNWTO and UNESCO on Tourism and Culture, in the city of Muscat of the Sultanate of Oman.
Participate, in one way or another in these activities, workshops and seminars has been and is a great opportunity for thousands of people linked to the world of tourism and also for the different actors involved in decision making.
There are many knowledge, experiences, studies, data and capabilities that have been put in our hands thanks to the celebration of this year’s International Sustainable Tourism.
A great opportunity has been opened for us to reflect together on the long term and to start planning now the concrete measures that will lead us to build the tourism sector that we want to leave to the next generations.
We need tourism that takes into account local decision making, generating jobs for communities and respecting their identity and interests.
We need tourism that encourages respect in all its forms, that does not become an extractive industry and whose benefits are distributed in a balanced way.
And I understand that this International Year of Sustainable Tourism is equipping us with the tools to mobilize from governments, the private sector and civil society to work together for these objectives.
Our mission now is that the end of this year is just the beginning.
The beginning of a much more intense and coordinated national, regional and world work agenda to advance towards the future of tourism.
In this sense we consider it positive that the 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals SDO of the United Nations, consider sustainable tourism as one of its goals.
I want to emphasize also that this goal of transforming tourism should not be seen as a drastic break with the existing model. I understand that in reality what must happen is a natural evolution.
The countries of the Caribbean region, for example, will not stop being visited in good part to enjoy the sun and the beach. That is one of our great attractions, after all.
However, we also know that to that experience we can add many others. We can offer adventure tourism, ecological tourism, historical and cultural tourism, culinary tourism, religious tourism and health tourism. In short, an endless list of options that go much further.
But in addition, the tools that we have now must allow us to evaluate and plan the future developments that we will implement in each place and its consequences in all areas.
We have to do this to ensure economic and environmental sustainability, and so that tourism revenues reach a greater number of communities.
We must meet the needs of current tourists and millions of people living on tourism, but we must also ensure the economic and social needs of the rest of the population, as well as the cultural and ecological integrity of our fragile ecosystems, which are ultimately the heritage that we will leave to future generations.
In my country, the Dominican Republic as in many other parts of the world, there are still many regions with exceptional natural and cultural attractions that have not yet been fully developed, such as the southwest and northwest of the republic.
But we know that in those places we must bet on a sustainable, low density tourism. An experience that maintains a balance between social, economic and ecological interests.
Because, in addition, more and more tourists are aware of the need to integrate their holiday experience with the conservation of the natural and cultural values of the area.
The commitment to tourism sustainability, in all its forms, will be beneficial from all points of view and, I have no doubt, it will also be a source of income and development for our peoples.
Those present are joined by joint opportunities and, why not, also great global challenges.
Challenges in which tourism, paradoxically, can be both an aggravating factor if it is mishandled, and a solution if it is managed well.
The response to health problems, such as the outbreak of Zika or natural disasters, such as hurricanes or floods, should remind us of the need for permanent planning and coordination between our countries.
In the same way, we have the responsibility to work together in the search for regional solutions to common problems, such as waste management, the generation of clean energy or the conservation of our seas and oceans.
And, of course, we must take the necessary steps so that both our countries and our tourism sector are fully prepared to adapt to climate change.
That is why we are pleased that the tourism sector has committed to the goal of reducing its CO2 emissions by 5%.
In fact this next day 29 my country, the Dominican Republic will host a workshop on the role of tourism in the framework of the International Climate Initiative.
This is also why it is of the utmost interest that, especially in the most vulnerable countries, we have a single voice in forums such as the “One Planet” Summit to be held in Paris on climate change.
It is time for the world to know the difficulties we must overcome in the face of increasingly frequent natural disasters and to support us in mitigation and reconstruction.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Before finishing this intervention I would like to focus attention on our Caribbean region.
Last year we received great news.
Tourism in the Caribbean region grew faster than the world average and as a result, for the first time, we exceeded the figure of 25 million visitors.
Everything indicates that 2017 will be the eighth consecutive year of continuous growth of tourism in the Caribbean, with a solid 4% in relation to the previous year and everything indicates that this trend will continue.
In the case of the Caribbean region, this is crucial, because we are currently the region that depends the most on tourism income in their economies.
To give you an example, for the Dominican Republic, tourism is producing more than 25% of the currencies generated by our economy.
We are, therefore, before a very great opportunity. Especially if we can position “The Caribbean” as a unified destination in the global market.
This does not mean, of course, that we Dominicans are going to stop promoting the Dominican Republic, or that Jamaicans stop promoting Jamaica as a destination.
It is simply a matter of recognizing that there is a larger market beyond. There is a visitor who wants to accumulate more than one experience in his trip, know the richness and diversity of our cultures and take advantage of his visit to this side of the world to travel to different places.
That opens us, as you know well, a large space for what in technical language is called multi-destination tourism.
Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Cuba, Puerto Rico and all the islands that make up this beautiful region have enormous potential if we are able to weave a network of offers that allows customers to explore all the attractions that it adds up to the climate, culture and experience offered by the Caribbean.
In that sense, today my country has signed with Jamaica a multi-destination tourism cooperation agreement, with the purpose of strengthening this joint offer. Of course, our goal is for this to be followed by many other agreements among the nations of the Caribbean, which allow us to develop our full potential.
From the governments there is much we can do to promote tourism in the region: open skies, migration facilitation, better and more efficient airports and tax incentives and, of course, joint promotion.
Equally, there is much that the private sector can begin to do: tour operators, travel agencies, airlines, shipping companies and other actors should see the great benefit they can obtain if they start already to design attractive multi-destination products.
Our country is, we could say, an extroverted country. And it is not only for the joy of our people and our hospitality to receive foreigners, but also for our willingness to expand our horizons.
We Dominicans bet for openness to the world, but we bet above all, for collaboration and joint work to achieve better results.
We want to work with all of you to transform the tourism sector not only into a growth engine, but into a motor for sustainable growth.
Let’s put all our best values at stake so that tourism is not just more employment, but also formal and quality employment for the progress of our peoples.
Let’s not only be more currency and income, but revenue for all sectors and the entire territory, in a balanced manner.
All of us present here have the responsibility, not only to participate, but also to lead this transformation that tourism is experiencing.
Do not doubt it: your priorities are also the priorities of the Dominican Republic.
We will continue to bet on tourism that reflects the three values proposed by the United Nations: Travel, enjoy and respect.
Thank you very much!