Port of Spain, Trinidad – Responsible travel is no longer a cliché.
That’s the view of Trinidad and Tobago’s Minister for Tourism, Stephen Cadiz.
Speaking to the 14th Sustainable Tourism Conference, Mr. Cadiz said that it was in everyone’s interest to take care of the Caribbean, which represented one of the world’s oldest tourism industries.
Profitability was the keyword of the industry, he noted, while warning that it was a fragile one and had ripple effects on other industries. As well as that, there was intense competition and service challenges.
However, there were also great opportunities and the conference was about trying to identify joint solutions. The Caribbean’s first priority must be to secure its status as the premier worldwide warm-weather destination, but internal competition was secondary to getting people to the region in the first place.
Beverly Nicholson-Doty, chairman of the council of ministers and commissioners of tourism for the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, said that sustainable tourism preserved the resources of the region for the enjoyment of future generations as well as improving profits.
“Discerning travellers are seeking a “sense of the place” – a term which encompasses how a destination cares for its environment and for its people. They feel the quality of their stay is linked to a destination’s commitment to sustainable tourism,” she said. “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.
“We have to pay close attention because it is our very success which can threaten our most valuable assets, and industry specialists tell us visitors are becoming increasingly aware of the potential negative impact of tourism on the natural beauty, cultural and historical offerings of a destination if not managed well,” she added. “They want to feel their visit contributes to the conservation and enhancement of a destination’s environment, culture, health and general well being.”
Sustainability, she said, spoke to more than the preservation of the environment; it was about the preservation of a people’s culture and heritage. To assist in this effort it was important to work with community-based organisations to both develop local artisans and ensure their products became a part of a destination’s offerings and assisted governments with spreading the message of sustainable tourism.
“Those of us in whom you have entrusted regional responsibility at the Caribbean Tourism Organization have to continually renew our commitment and our approach to keeping sustainability at the forefront of economic development policy,” she noted. “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,” she added. “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.
“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,” Ms Nicholson-Doty said.
The Caribbean has long been a leader in tourism, she concluded, but it could not rest on its laurels. It had to keep refreshing its products.
“We are one of the world’s most desired destinations,” she said. “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.”