St. Maarten Tourism Director: Protect Biodiversity From Tourism

Regina LaBega, director of tourism for St. Maarten, took the opportunity during the celebrations of World Tourism Day to warn the tourism industry that biodiversity is under a serious threat, needing action instead of just words, and urged that governments enact legislation to protect and strengthen biodiversity.

The St. Maarten Tourist Bureau celebrated World Tourism Day with a dinner gathering of industry executives from a wide diversity of areas including hotels, attractions, shopkeepers, marketing consultants and politicians.

LaBega told attendees: "All over the world, biological diversity, or biodiversity, is under serious threat. According to some recent studies on a global scale, 13.6 percent of bird life, 22 percent of mammals, 31 percent of amphibians, and 27 percent of reefs are threatened or in danger of extinction. This is as a result of the impact of several areas of human activity, including tourism, on the ecosystems found in forests, wetlands, savannah, jungles, coral reefs, mountains, seas and polar zones among others.”

She noted that the World Tourism Organization's “Vision 2020” estimates that in this year alone international travel will reach the 1.006 billion mark and will jump to 1.561 billion by 2020 at an annual growth rate of 4.1 percent.

LaBega went on to say: "Action, indeed, speaks louder than words, and it is in this respect that the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau has been partnering with environmental protection groups such as the Nature Foundation, and EPIC to disseminate information and educate particularly our youth about the importance of biodiversity to tourism and the delicate balance which should be struck between both.”

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