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Have Finance, Will Travel
Américas / September-October 1995

By Larry Luxner

WASHINGTON -- There's hardly a nation in Latin America or the Caribbean that doesn't try to lure tourists to its beaches, mountains, rainforests or casinos. But without the proper financing of hotels and other tourism infrastructure, such efforts are likely to flop.

With that in mind, the Organization of American States and the World Bank's Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) have teamed up to offer sound advice on how to create and maintain a quality tourism product. Both organizations are co-sponsoring an Oct. 23-28 conference in Quito, Ecuador, entitled "Partnerships for the Sustainable Development of Tourism."

The meeting, which coincides with the XVII Inter-American Travel Congress, is aimed at helping member countries evaluate the mechanisms available for funding tourism projects. Hotel developers, policy makers and representative of the world's leading financial institutions will come to Quito to set an agenda which, according to the OAS, "will position Latin America and the Caribbean for long-term profitability through an increased share of the global tourism market."

The investment forum, chaired by MIGA, will lead off the three-part schedule of events.

"We view the combined Congress as a significant step forward in tourism development for the region," said Douglas Maguire, MIGA's investment officer for Latin America and the Caribbean. "It will bring key figures from the finance community face-to-face with public and private-sector sponsors of tourism projects in meetings planned to encourage dialogue and forge relationships vital to the future of the tourism industry."

Among the speakers: Michael Manley, former prime minister of Jamaica; Peter Krause, vice-president of Morgan Stanley Real Estate; David Edgell, tourism director of the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Dr. Horst Otterstetter, environmental health chief of the Pan American Health Organization.

Topics to be covered during the five-day gathering include "Project Development and Financing: Regional Case Studies of Successful Hotel and Resort Development," "Techniques for Conserving and Managing Natural Resources," "Maintaining Health Standards for Tourism" and "Subtle Security for Upscale Resorts."

Panel discussions on urban tourist safety will also be presented by representatives of Brazil and Guatemala -- two nations that have had more than their share of violence against tourists. Ecuador, the host country, will chair a discussion on "Balancing Nature and Numbers," while the delegation from Costa Rica -- a leader in so-called "ecotourism" or sustainable development -- is to speak on "Managing Success."

Kirk P. Rodgers, director of regional development at the OAS, said the recommendations resulting from this meeting will provide the basis for an agenda at the upcoming Summit Meeting on Sustainable Development, to be held in Bolivia in late 1996.

"With the increasing reliance on tourism as an engine for economic development, concern for conservation of the natural resources on which tourism depends has grown proportionally," said Rodgers. "The Congress aims to produce practical guidelines to assure sustainable development of tourism and protection of natural and cultural resources."

Pedro Campagnani, general manager of the Instituto Panameño de Turismo and president of the IATC's permanent executive committee, said the decision to include an investment forum for the first time comes in response to requests by the region's tourism ministers.

"There is an urgent need for information to assist our countries in learning about and evaluating the mechanisms available for financing tourism projects," he said, "and for an immediate private-sector voice in OAS's hemispheric coordination of tourism development."

The OAS established the IAT in 1939 to promote travel in the Americas, and to conduct technical studies and support OAS member states' tourism development efforts.

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