Caribbean cruise tourism under fire at conference

The cruise industry has come under
fire for “decimating” some Caribbean islands.

 The attack came from Jonathan
B. Tourtellot, of the National Geographic Traveller and father of the concept
of geotourism.

 He opened CTO Caribbean
Sustainable Tourism conference in Barbados with a keynote speech extolled the
virtues of a “sense of place”.

 “When you are on vacation can
you tell where you are? And if you can’t the destination has almost certainly
failed its sustainability test?”

 Examples were also given of
Caribbean islands that have been decimated by the ‘cruise’ culture.

 Tourtellot declared himself
“nervous when the ship is bigger than the island”.

 Cruise dollars, seemingly so
important to the Caribbean economy, were exposed as not forming part of a
“smart” long term strategy. The dollar advantage of cruise visitors was 15
times less than other holidaymakers.

 Under questioning from
TravelMole, he agreed that “it needs strong government to resist the overtures
of some cruise lines and, indeed, hotel groups”.

 Minister Hadyn Hughes of
Anguilla agreed with the sentiment and said: “We have over the years said
“No” in a big way to cruise and to a large Jamaican-based hotel

 “You only have to look at St
Maarten to see the decimation an over reliance on cruise can bring and we want
no part of it.

 “Low volume and high value
with an emphasis on our totally unique tourism offering which in turn helps our
economy and our population.”

 In a paper titled ‘Beyond
Green’, Tourtellot spoke in passionate and wide ranging terms about the
benefits for all of ensuring that all aspects of a destination are taken into
account in any measure of sustainability – to measure environmental effects is
important but not enough.

The ability to retain food,
language, music, topography and a sense of the place are all vital ingredients
in a truly sustainable destination, he argued.

“Increasingly, leisure travellers
want authenticity, experiences. Quality of place is a selling point.
Destinations that think of the whole place as the tourism product will rally support
for good stewardship,” said Mr. Tourtellot.

Identification of what is
distinctive about a destination as well as developing and marketing the product
were key, he said.

 The talk was backed up by
statistics that suggested that more than half of the travelling population preferred
“unspoilt” destinations; and certainly those with the purchasing power.