Caribbean pride: Sustainable tourism means preserving one’s culture as well as the environment. Seen above are dancers from the opening of the Sustainable Tourism Conference in Trinidad and Tobago. *Photo courtesy of the CTO
Caribbean pride: Sustainable tourism means preserving one’s culture as well as the environment. Seen above are dancers from the opening of the Sustainable Tourism Conference in Trinidad and Tobago. *Photo courtesy of the CTO
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Sustainable tourism is more than the preservation of the environment — it is about the preservation of a people’s culture and heritage.

This from Beverly Nicholson-Doty, Caribbean Tourism Organization chairperson, who gave the welcome address to the Sustainable Tourism Conference in Trinidad and Tobago on Monday. 

She added while protecting the environment was the right thing to do from a green standpoint, it was also a smart business decision “because figures are showing that sustainable tourism not only preserves resources for the enjoyment of future generations, but it also produces profits in the present.

 “Devoting resources to develop a sustainable tourism industry for today and the future has a very strong potential for a high return on investment. This is especially true for a region like ours — rich in natural resources and cultural heritage. Other regions with few natural attractions have profited from sustainable management and conservation of their resources.”

She admitted the conference’s theme of Keeping the Right Balance: Enhancing Destination Sustainability through Products, Partnerships and Profitability “is a mouthful, but it is fitting as we work together to become more competitive as a united region of the world. We all know the benefits of standing united so we must be innovative in our partnerships.

“The Caribbean is blessed with natural beauty — there is no shortage of natural wonders.

 “Our God-given natural bounty, indeed, is the basis of our thriving tourism industry.  As one of the most tourism dependent regions in the world, it is crucial to ensure our constituents fully understand the preservation of these valuable resources will determine our success in the future.”

Ms Nicholson-Doty said discerning travellers are looking for destinations that take care of their environment.

“ They feel the quality of their stay is linked to a destination’s commitment to sustainable tourism. Increasingly, travellers are specifically seeking out these experiences, and we must make a commitment to preserve our environment.  Resources must be allocated to both the preservation of our natural resources and the development of a cutting edge hospitality sector driven by high levels of service excellence in order to provide a well-rounded visitor experience.”

She added success also brings threats if the country does not manage its natural assets well.

“Visitors are now relentless in their pursuit of destinations, accommodations, activities and attractions which have implemented sustainability practices and policies.

“We recognize many of our members are at varying stages of environmental consciousness so we must work together to ensure our policy makers provide the enabling environment for an industry seeking to maximize its sustainable tourism development. And, we must educate our industry to the tangible benefits of sustainable practices and how to make those profitable.

“Sustainability speaks to more than the preservation of the environment — it is about the preservation of a people’s culture and heritage. To assist in this effort we should work with our friends in community-based organizations. These groups can help to both develop our local artisans and ensure their products become a part of a destination’s offerings and assist governments with spreading the message of sustainable tourism.”

Ms Nicholson-Doty said sustainability needs to be at the forefront of economic development policy. “Policy makers have to recognize the true value of tourism to the economy so they, in turn, can ensure national budgets reflect the need to responsibly develop our region’s major economic driver.

“The sensitive planning of responsible tourism is no longer just a feel good activity but an essential component of a sound economic development strategy. These elements must be woven into the fabric of the total visitor experience and into the quality of lives for those who call the region home.”

The CTO chair added that “Sustainable tourism is good tourism policy. It is good for the people of our nations, it is good for the visitor experience, and it is good for business and local communities. Indeed, it is now a fact that we can earn green by being green.

“The Caribbean has long been a leader in tourism but we cannot rest on our laurels — we have to keep refreshing our products. We are one of the world’s most desired destinations, but the time has come for us to put our heads together and up our sustainable tourism development game to ensure we remain in the lead.” n