Samuda: We must protect our sun, sea and sand
SENATOR MATTHEW SAMUDA, minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, is warning that Jamaica’s natural environment must be protected from degradation and destruction in order to preserve the country’s tourism industry and promote greater investment opportunities.
Samuda made the call while addressing a panel discussion on the future of global tourism during Tuesday’s opening session of the ‘Invest Jamaica 2022’ Business Conference at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in Rose Hall, St James.
“The challenges that we faced pre-COVID-19, which include environmental degradation and the impact of climate change, have not subsided. The tourism industry is both a contributor and one of the industries at greatest risk of climate change and environmental degradation; and when you look at the current rate of emissions, environmental degradation, and pollution, with the economic recovery we are seeing globally, it is actually picking up pace,” Samuda told the forum.
“The industry is at greater risk than it was in 2019. It is not [at risk] from the cataclysmic Category 5 hurricanes, but it is the slow events that eat our beaches alive, kill our coral reefs, and diminish our fish populations,” Samuda added. “I think it is particularly timely that as a part of our investment strategy, JAMPRO (Jamaica Promotions Corporation) and the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce saw fit to include today (for the conference) the issue of greening of the tourist sector.”
Samuda pointed out that part of Jamaica’s tourism appeal lies in visitors’ appreciation for the country’s natural environmental beauty, which must be protected from the destructive effects of pollution.
“We have to invest in a way that understands that our footprint cannot continue the rate of degradation, because at the end of the day, sea level rising will eat our beaches, and sewage discharge will destroy our reefs and fish populations. We have been selling sun, sand and sea for the past three decades, so we need to protect that sun, sand and sea,” Samuda stressed.
His stance was supported by businessman Adam Stewart, the executive chairman of Sandals Resorts International, who noted that the modern-day consumer is seeking more environmentally-friendly options that reduce the carbon footprints affecting the world’s natural resources.
“There is no question that the consumer today is demanding more, regarding a lighter [carbon] footprint across the board. They want to see the companies that they are doing business with doing more, and having a solid environmental platform in place is good business,” said Stewart.
“If we lose the natural environment, be it the mountains, the rivers, the sand, the sea, or the beaches, we are in a sea of sameness with the rest of the world. We will always have our people, the most fascinating part of the culture, but the gifts that we were given that drive consumers and create consumer demand to come to this part of the world revolve around the natural beauty and the people, and around those two things colliding,” Stewart explained.
Jamaica has made previous attempts to strengthen its resilience against climate change, including through the $829.3-million Improving Climate Data and Information Management Project in 2016. That initiative, one of five projects under Jamaica’s Strategic Programme for Climate Resilience, was rolled out by the Planning Institute of Jamaica with grant funding from the World Bank, through the Climate Investment Fund.
In 2021, Jamaica became the first country in the world to begin developing a predictive, climate risk-assessment planning tool for major infrastructure areas under the global private sector-led Coalition for Climate Resilient Investment.