St. Maarten News – Former airport director Regina Labega spoke about sustainable tourism as a key for Caribbean airports at the first Caribbean Aviation conference hosted by the government of Dominica earlier last week in Rousseau.
Sustainable tourism can be defined as Jamie Lisse of Demand Media does, as: “Tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities,” Labega said.
“The Caribbean Region is perhaps the most tourism-intensive region in the world,” Labega stated, quoting CTO statistics that show that tourism was responsible for about 14% of total GDP and generated about 12% of Caribbean employment (both direct and indirect) in 2012.
In 2011 there were about 21 million international tourist arrivals in the Caribbean bringing in a revenue of $24.5 billion, with a direct GDP contribution of $15 billion, an indirect contribution of $32 billion, and creating 614,000 direct jobs.
Labega pointed out the crucial role of aviation in supporting tourism, “with over 54% of international tourists now traveling by air.”
Arguing that airports are the gateways and not the destinations, Labega said “Regional airports can be valuable assets in sustainable tourism development. Airports are the destination’s number one asset to sustain, grow and diversify its economy. Airports, therefore, need to be treated as such by governments. Visitors to a country get their first and last impression of that country at the airport.”