(BROOKLYN, New York): The Secretary general of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), Hugh Riley, has called on Caribbean states to take tsunami preparedness seriously, stating that to do otherwise would put the people and regional economies at risk. Speaking in Paris, France, during a discussion organized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to raise awareness of the threats posed by tsunamis, Riley insisted that Caribbean countries risked paying the price for complacency.
He stressed with the Caribbean comprised mainly of low-lying states, and with most tourism assets and hotel investments located at or near coastal areas, the tourism sector is extremely vulnerable to the threat of tsunamis. “Tourism is the main economic driver of the Caribbean, representing 80 per cent of the region’s gross domestic product and more than one million jobs so we cannot ignore a tsunami risk,” he told fellow panelists and the wider audience, which included representatives from Grenada, Saint Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
“Complacency puts us in real danger and we must raise the Caribbean’s voice by advocating for our members during this important global forum,” he added. The event was being held in advance of World Tsunami Awareness Day on 5 Nov. 2018. The secretary general noted that the region had experienced 11 tsunamis in the past, the most recent of which occurred in 2010, and six between 1902 and 1997. Riley suggested that because there has been no “recent” impact on the region, tsunamis are not considered an imminent threat; therefore, they are not given sufficient attention.
“The CTO recognizes that tsunami preparedness is critical, which includes well-established and tested response protocols which will ultimately reduce loss of life and economic damage. We also need to enhance collaboration with countries recently and frequently impacted by tsunami hazards in order to develop best practices,” he said.