The XXII Inter-American Congress of Ministers and High-Level Authorities of Tourism, convened by the Organization of American States (OAS), concluded Thursday in Barbados with the adoption of the “Declaration of Bridgetown on Tourism Competitiveness: An Essential Component of Sustainability.” In the document, member states recognize current challenges facing the sector and identify priority areas of focus to advance regional cooperation.
The Declaration underscores that “tourism competitiveness is an important component of sustainability and remains an issue in the Americas, which warrants a hemispheric response through the development of common strategies where possible.” It also instructs the OAS General Secretariat, through its Inter-American Committee on Tourism (CITUR) and with the support of the Executive Secretariat for Integral Development (SEDI), to develop a “medium-term strategy” to enhance tourism cooperation and competitiveness in the Americas.
At the meeting, Peru offered to host the next Inter-American Congress of Ministers and High-Level Authorities of Tourism in 2015 while Guyana reaffirmed its commitment to host the XXIV Inter-American Congress of Ministers and High-Level Authorities of Tourism in 2016.
The closing ceremony featured Richard Sealy, Acting Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism and International Transport of Barbados, who expressed appreciation for the support provided by the General Secretariat in organizing the XXII Congress and said that he looked forward to participating in upcoming congresses.
In her closing remarks, Sherry Tross, Executive Secretary for Integral Development of the OAS, highlighted that tourism competitiveness and sustainability require “real Public-Private Partnerships, Public-Public partnerships, as well as intra- and inter-regional cooperation to optimize resources, capacity, areas of action and reach.” “Indeed, this last may well be fundamental for establishing the kind of connectivity that so many have pointed out as being necessary for the region’s competitiveness going forward,” she added.
During the two-day meeting in Barbados, authorities strategically focused the high-level dialogue on critical areas for tourism competitiveness, which were also reflected in the final Declaration. Sustainability, infrastructure, innovation and quality, tourism security, and promotion were all discussed. Furthermore, member states requested that these areas be considered in the strategy, with actions on travel facilitation, development of indexes and related statistics, supporting Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in the tourism sector, and developing products and standards.
In his remarks in plenary, Ambassador Neil Parsan, Permanent Representative of Trinidad and Tobago and Chair of the Inter-American Council for Integral Development (CIDI), addressed tourism in the context of the OAS development pillar of development, emphasizing the new mandates emanated from the meeting. During his presentation, Ambassador Parsan stressed the need to give more political visibility to the ministerial meetings, noting also that "multi-sectoral and inter-sectoral dialogue and consultation are increasingly important to achieve an inclusive agenda, through joint ministerial meetings, for example tourism and culture".
At the meeting, the Sustainable Destinations Alliance for the Americas (SDAA) announced its first seven destination partners in the Caribbean and Central American region, which will receive support to enhance the long-term viability of their tourism sectors: Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Dominica, Honduras, Jamaica, and Nicaragua. The SDAA, launched earlier this year, is the largest-scale effort to date through which public and private entities have united to focus on destination sustainability in the Americas and is a central tourism-related initiative for the OAS/SEDI.
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