Sustainable Tourism Plan Shows Success in Antigua and Barbuda
In 2013 the government of Antigua and Barbuda worked with planning and tourism consultants OBM International (OBMI) and Territoires et Tourism (T&T) to craft the Antigua and Barbuda Sustainable Tourism Development Master Plan. Since its adoption, the tourism industry has grown steadily and offered real, positive economic impact to the islands. The plan highlights the type of plan the United Nations (UN) advocates for the growth of island nations by designating 2017 the Year of International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.
Tourism accounts for 7% of worldwide exports, one in eleven jobs and 10% of the world’s GDP. By designating 2017 the year of Sustainable Tourism for Development the UN designation provides a focus on celebrating and promoting the contribution of the tourism sector to building a better world through economic growth, social inclusiveness and the protection of cultural and natural assets. The designation is a part of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The Sustainable Tourism Development Plan designed for the Government of Antigua and Barbuda by, OBMI and T&T is an example of a plan that has realized quantifiable results including an increase in the percent of contribution to the economies GDP, increased tourism expenditures, and major new developments. Critical to the writing and success of the plan was the understanding OBMI brought with them of the full impact of the plan’s recommendations based on their presence in Antigua and Barbuda since 1979.
Tourism and tourism-related industries comprised 75% of Antigua and Barbuda’s economy. It is the island’s main contributor to GDP and job creation and has a key role in developing and creating value for its inhabitants. The sustainable tourism plan written in collaboration with the Government of Antigua and Barbuda, OBMI and T&T capitalize on the existing strengths of the islands while also providing solutions for existing challenges. The plan is written with consideration of key components that provide economic feasibility, including:
- Ensuring viable, long-term economic operations
- Providing socio-economic benefits to all stakeholders
- Creating stable employment, income-earning opportunities, social services to host communities, and contribution to poverty alleviation
- Increased respect for socio-cultural authenticity, conservation of living cultural heritage and traditional values which contribute to inter-cultural understanding and tolerance
- Optimal use of environmental resources that constitute a key element in tourism development, maintenance of essential ecological processes and preservation of natural resources
Implementing the STDP Action Plan has enabled Antigua and Barbuda to be a strong competitor and attract more tourists and potential real estate buyers. Along with increasing the brand awareness and value of the Antigua and Barbuda product, the plan has brought tremendous interest and development to the island. As a result of the sustainable tourism master plan:
- Tourism expenditures have increased 102% since 2013
- Tourism expenditures have increased 1.7 times since 2009
- Hotel & Restaurant contributions to Antigua and Barbuda’s economy have grown in percent contribution to the GDP each year since the plan’s inception, currently contributing 14.7% to GDP
- Four of seven sites identified, master planned and concept designed, in the plan are currently in the development stages
- Over $1.1 billion in new and re-development tourism projects have begun including the much anticipated Half Moon Bay
As evidenced by the Antigua and Barbuda STDMP, nations that focus on growing sustainable tourism achieve quantifiable benefits far outreaching their initial goals. A properly crafted plan will not only contribute the country’s economy but also provide a framework for growth that will add value to the cultural and resources of the country.
As more islands realize the positive impacts of Sustainable Development Tourism Plans it is no wonder the UN has dedicated 2017 to their development. In speaking on the 2017 designation for Sustainable tourism development, UNWTO Secretary-General Table Rifai said, “This is a unique opportunity to build a more responsible and committed tourism sector that can capitalize its immense potential in terms of economic prosperity, social inclusion, peace and understanding, cultural and environmental preservation.”