LaBega: Sustainable Tourism and Airport Development are Two Sides of the Same Coin 

)–“Sustainable tourism should be seen as an ongoing project that continuously has to adapt itself to new technology, new ideas, and new situations. It is a permanent work in progress that requires strong political leadership and an active involvement and participation of all stakeholders, particularly the host communities,” Regina LaBega, SXM Managing Director said at a panel discussion on “Sustainable Tourism: Key for Caribbean Airports.”
The panel was part of several others held at the recent annual meeting of top airport executives organized by Airports Council International – Latin America and the Caribbean (ACI-LAC) in Cancun, Mexico under the theme, “Airports Contributing to Sustainable Tourism.”
“We at SXM airport are cognizant of the fact that sustainable tourism is not only the key to our own development, but also vice-versa. They are the two sides of the same coin,” she said in her presentation, which was well-received by the participants.
LaBega highlighted the initiatives that SXM Airport has been taking to ensure sustainable practices. She noted that the Princess Juliana International Airport, SXM, had been designated a Blue Flag company since April 2012 due to its commitment to environmental sustainability. She also mentioned the new irrigation system, the runway rehabilitation project which features the LED energy saving lights and the landscaping projects that indicate that SXM Airport is headed in the right direction.
Among several initiatives of SXM Airport, LaBega revealed that it has undertaken an energy efficiency study geared towards conserving energy and reducing energy consumption.
“We are set to begin construction of a 2000m2 solar panel field in 2015 while the rooftops of the renovated Cargo Facility, the new Rescue and Fire Fighting facility, the FBO and the Technical Buildings will feature solar panels as well. Whatever excess energy is produced will be offered to the island’s utility company, GEBE,” she disclosed.
Following a review of the criteria set by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC), a world leader in promoting sustainable tourism, LaBega said: “Education as a means of acquiring knowledge and applying it to everyday situations and as a tool for changing mindsets is, in my view, critical to the long-term sustainability of tourism everywhere and in particular in the Caribbean region. So is the realization that as the slogan says, “tourism is everybody’s business.”
There is no alternative to collaboration between all the stakeholders in the tourism industry if sustainability were to be achieved, she added.
“Ignoring the need for sustainability and disregarding the fact that this is a team effort, would eventually drive tourism away from our shores,” LaBega warned.
In concluding, she stressed that understanding that tourism is not just about sun, sea, and sand, but most of all, about the experience we offer visitors, is “fundamental in whatever initiatives we take to ensure sustainability.”
Other members of the otherwise all male panel included the CEO of the Aruba Airport Authority, James Fazio, and the CEO of the Grantley Adams International Airport, Barbados, David Barrow. The panelists agreed that airports should be self-sustaining, highlighting eco-tourism, noise impact reduction, airport solar car parks, LED street-lighting and how airports can work with governments to further develop their respective destinations.
The next Airport Council International Annual Assembly Conference and Exhibition will be held in Panama City on August 31, 2015.

Regina LaBega, Managing Director, SXM Airport (L) with fellow airport executives during the panel discussion on “Sustainable Tourism: Key for Caribbean Airports,” 23rd ACI-LAC conference, Cancun, Mexico
Regina LaBega, Managing Director, SXM Airport (L) with fellow airport executives during the panel discussion on “Sustainable Tourism: Key for Caribbean Airports,” 23rd ACI-LAC conference, Cancun, Mexico