The Road to Sustainable Tourism II

Jim Hepple’s presentation at the Raiz Symposium took 6 minutes and 47 seconds. And it was loaded with ear-popping information.

Take-Away: As an island-nation we are in a tough position, we need wise leadership, we need good-decision-makers, otherwise we’re up the famous creek without a paddle.

This is part II

Back to tourism, our savior.

Because we need a sustainable economy, tourism must become sustainable, says Hepple.

But first the definition: Sustainable tourism is defined as a form of tourism that involves travelling to a destination as a tourist whilst trying to have a positive impact on the environment, and respecting a destination’s culture, environment, and its local communities.

But can tourism be sustainable? (Honestly, can you have your cake and eat it?)

We MUST find ways of minimizing the impact, and/or find ways where tourism can have a positive impact on the world.

And this is tricky, because, tourism can have a negative impact on resources that are being depleted, yet, it may have a good impact on people’s lives: increasing their wellbeing, giving people employment, and bringing economic benefits into an area that is suffering.

So, what kind of tourism does Aruba need?

Hepple states, that we shouldn’t grow the volume of tourists substantially but we should grow income from tourism. This is a challenge because world-wide, visitors tend to spend less per day/visit.

Moreover, there is an increased preference for all-inclusive vacations. But, fortunately, we don’t need that many visitors in absolute terms, but remember that we want to attract the type of visitor every OTHER destination is eyeing. We are after the same market.

Which means Aruba’s tourism will have to be highly competitive, highly efficient and highly focused. We must ask ourselves what kind of products and services do these kinds of tourists want? Can Aruba provide them? We have to deliver superior service which would allow us to charge premium prices, relative to our competitors.

And that is where Hepple tackles education.

Our education system, he says, has to provide the opportunity to learn applied-skills. We will need to provide superior service to be competitive. Our workforce will need to be highly trained. A key priority will be to ensure our workforce has high quality applied-skills as line staffers, supervisors or managers.

Our education providers must keep up with, and have knowledge of, modern and contemporary tech. And our labor laws must become more flexible while protecting workers.

The key to an efficient and competitive workforce will be flexibility to meet the needs both of the employees and the employers. And there is a need to enhance labor mobility for job growth. The workforce must be protected but not to the extent that it makes it difficult to hire young workers and to allow them to progress and grow.

It will be a challenge to attract more young people into our tourism industry, Hepple states. The industry finds it hard to recruit young people partially due to a lack of understanding of the opportunities in tourism.

We need to close the gap between the tourism industry and our educational institutions. And to better inform potential associates of the benefits of working in the sector, by exposing them in-depth to all its opportunities.

In conclusion, what does Aruba have to do? Aruba has to have a clear vision of where it is going and how it is going to get there.

The island is committed to reaching multiple sustainability goals by 2030. So it must develop a tourism strategy which meets the needs of this overall vision and strategy.

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June 26, 2019
Rona Coster