The Caribbean Tourism Organization pushes for a more sustainable tourism productListen /
The Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) is hosting its 13th Sustainable Tourism Conference STC-13 in Guyana in mid- April. The Conference will draw from the best pool of leading local, regional and international tourism experts and practitioners and simultaneously demonstrate how the Caribbean has been making strides with respect to tourism sustainability. Gail Henry is the Sustainable Tourism Product Specialist at the CTO.
Gail: We usually do it in different countries based on which country is hosting it and under different themes. So this is an annual event that we stage not just for CTO member countries but for anybody who is interested in sustainable tourism issues. And, it really is an opportunity for our delegates to exchange ideas with the speakers, also to learn from the speakers who usually are from the destination itself –the host country as well as from within the Caribbean region and outside of it….It's also an opportunity from our perspective to follow up some of the critical issues that are raised at the conference and to follow-up where necessary with projects and programmes and so on that would be relevant to our member countries.
Donn: What's the theme of the conference?
Gail: The theme of the conference is "Keeping the Right Balance: Sustaining our Resources". It's really focused on looking at sustainability its relationship to tourism and this year specifically on the issue of biodiversity conservation and climate change adaptation, how we can engage communities with respect to climate change and enhance the understanding of the possible impact of climate change within the region and to enlighten our stakeholders who also come from the private sector in term of what action they can take in term of climate change adaptation and ensuring that our natural resources and our physical assets also which are critical to our tourism industry are really maintained.
Donn: And would you says that some Caribbean states, if not all of them have begun practising that level of sustainability to basically make sure that it is there for the future generations.
Gail: Yes, definitely. We cover a number of destinations in the Caribbean that have quite a diverse tourism product. So you would have all of the countries in the Caribbean depend on the core of their tourism product – the natural resources – their beaches, their mountains in some cases, their forested areas and we have to relay on these natural resources for our tourism product in many cases. And countries have been actively, at different levels of course, trying to adjust sustainability issues to their policies, to their programmes in term of the types of products that they develop and how they market their destinations. There are, for instance, hotels that are certified by Green Globe and other destinations that have other types of certifications- there are a number of different certification systems but we are seeing more evidence of hoteliers and attraction operators in particular, being certified to ensure that they have environmental management systems in place so that they can reduce their carbon footprint and not just think green but to act in a more manner….There are also changes in terms of how destinations market their particular destinations. They may highlight not just the sun, sea and sand, but they highlight other types of products in their destinations, including eco-resorts and other more environmentally-friendly type of attractions.
Donn: Would you say that this model of tourism which the region is now practising, would you say that has brought more tourists?
Gail: The Caribbean, obviously, because of its sun, sea and sand product is very attractive to visitors who are very interested to visitors who are interested in that type of product. But there's an increasing effort by countries to promote themselves as more than just sun, sea and sand. And so you would have that base of visitors who are primarily interested in sun, sea and sand but then they also want to get out and experience the culture, experience nature, experience festivals and other events and destinations so they are different niches that are targeted when any destination or us at the regional level – the Caribbean Tourism Organization do our marketing because we also note that there's a growing trend towards travellers who are interested in these types of greener products.
Donn: Guyana is known for its eco-tourism, would you say this adds to this year's STC?
Gail: Most definitely because it's a different kind of destination. I think a lot of our delegates may not have ever been to Guyana before, so it's a fantastic opportunity to see Guyana's eco-tourism product. I was just there a few short weeks ago and for the first time I visited Kaieteur Falls for instance and that was just an amazing experience. So delegates will have the opportunity to experience, through our study tours…where they will get to go into the interior of Guyana, go into the Amerindian communities, interact with them; see what they are doing in terms of eco-tourism or nature-based tourism, as well as to experience fantastic attractions such as Irokwama which is well-known internationally for its efforts of conserving a significant portion of Guyana's rainforest. So there's going to be a lot of exciting study tours and delegates will be experiencing some of these products and be able to interact and learn how they can perhaps develop similar types of attractions where applicable.
Donn: Gail Henry is the Sustainable Tourism Product Specialist at the CTO.
This is Donn Bobb reporting.