…as Inter-American Congress of Ministers on Tourism opensIn underscoring the importance of tourism to several countries, particularly those in the Americas, President David Granger declared that sustainable tourism requires sustained action to ensure a more climate resilient tourism sector, and this should be taken seriously by every country.Addressing the opening of the two-day XXIV Inter-American Congress of Ministers and High-Level Authorities of Tourism being held in Guyana at the Marriott Hotel, the Guyanese Head of State said climate change is real and has proven potentialPresident David Granger (centre) with several top government officials from across the Americasto reverse progress in many countries.“It is not an intellectual invention or political sophistry. Climate change represents the most potent threat to Caribbean tourism, particularly to small-island and low-lying coastal states,” he explained.He said rising sea levels are eroding beaches, destroying coral reefs and disrupting marine life, all prime Caribbean tourist attractions – the result of climate change. Extreme weather patterns are precipitating droughts and floods, which diminish food supplies and customer services needed by the tourism sector.Granger said therefore that climate resilient tourism will help the hemisphere to recover from natural hazards. He said increased frequency of hurricanes in the Caribbean can attest to the inflicted severe damage to infrastructure: bridges, boats, hotels, roads, resorts and utilities, which are vital to tourism.“The 21st century must become the ‘Century of the South.’ The North and East have had their day. It is now the South’s turn. A sustainable tourism sector can make this century an occasion for rediscovering the ‘New’ world,” Granger told theA section of the audience at the opening of the two-day tourism conferencelarge gathering on Wednesday.Importantly also, Granger told the participating countries that the protection of the Americas’ patrimony, its natural assets, cultural diversity is the bedrock of sustainable tourism.As such, tourism industries must be protected from the perils of transnational threats such as cybercrime and trafficking in all forms. “Security cooperation against transnational threats will make societies safer for our citizens and our visitors,” he told countries of the OAS.Granger urged the conference to seek solutions to ensuring that the Americas can catalyse their tourism potential by increasing annual tourist arrivals. To do this, the President said they must protect the Americas’ natural capital by developing a concerted approach to the environment.But more than that, he said they must promote increased connectivity between tourist destinations; and provide smaller states with easier access to capital for investments to build a more resilient industry.“…small island states tend to lack the resources to finance their own air and shipping lines so that new routes can be exploited to boost tourist arrivals. Travel needs to be cheaper, easier and faster. Destinations need to be connected efficiently to make tourism more competitive with our parts of the world,” he stated. Further, Granger said the Americas can straddle the sea and integrate the continents, North and South through Information and Communications Technology. He therefore urged the congress to consider charting a roadmap to create a single ICT space of the Americas.The President did not stop there; he also used the opportunity to boast about Guyana’s unique biodiversity and diverse ecosystems, explaining that Guyana is becoming a ‘green state’, which will allow the country to develop a resilient tourism sector by protecting the environment.“Guyana together with Brazil, Colombia, Suriname and other states of Central and South America – is a home to some of the giants of the world,” he said, naming a few such as the anaconda, anteater, armadillo, and otter, among other large creatures that could only be found here.The President said Guyana should be seen as a ‘gateway’ to the continent for the goods, services and peoples of the South to markets and destinations in the Caribbean, Central America and North America.He said the country remains committed to its membership of regional and hemispheric organisations such as: the Caribbean Community (Caricom); Association of Caribbean States (ACS); Common Market of the South (MERCOSUR); Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC); Organisation of America States (OAS) and the Union of South American States (UNASUR).The XXIV Inter-American Congress of Ministers and High-Level Authorities of Tourism, which commences today, attracted participation from a large number of Caribbean States that are members of the Organisation of the American States (OAS). Of the 13 Caribbean countries that are members of the OAS, 10 were represented at the Congress, being held for the first time in Guyana.