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Published on Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Caribbean tourism watershed

Symposium highlights massive challenges and real opportunities

It's coming up towards crunch time for the Caribbean - these heartbreakingly beautiful islands will be providing heartbreak for everybody if something isn't done soon.

But challenges often lead to innovations, and that was certainly the case last week at an event in the stunning Caribbean island of Grenada

The Executive Symposium for Innovators in Coastal Tourism was convened by CREST (Center for Responsible Travel ) and CTO (the Caribbean Tourism Organisation ) together with Grenada Tourism Authority Compete Caribbean  and Grenada Hotel and Tourism Association held last week at the beautiful St George's University in Grenada The intention of the event was to bring together over 100 green tourism innovators from around the world to see if the Caribbean tourism opportunities and challenges could be addressed  and enhanced - and that the activity could be healthy and sustainable.

Literally dozens of top speakers presented to enthusiastic audiences, but more than often, certainly at the beginning, the message shared was dire.

Murray Simpson outlines the challenges of climate change

Both Murray Simpson of the Caribsave  project and climate change guru Hugh Sealy of St George's University gave the same message - coral reefs are dying, mangroves are being eradicated, sea levels are rising, seasons are changing and storms becoming worse.

As far as climate change is concerned, the Caribbean is right at the centre of it and pretty powerless, even as a cohesive entity, to affect the progress towards global temperature increases to 4 degrees and over. Mainly the cause for this is in the industrialized world.

Moreover, the Caribbean is one of the world's great tourism destinations and depends on the industrialized world for its 25 million tourists and around 22 million cruise passengers each year. Although income from tourism has more or less stagnated since 2008 and the beginning of the global economic crisis.

Cruises could be anywhere! Says Fritz Pinnock

Further challenges for the Caribbean relate to the island states need to get more income from the tourism activity and constant pressure on margins from all-inclusives and from cruises. To any knowledgeable onlooker it often appears that tourism in the Caribbean is an extractive activity mainly operated by and for global organizations.

Jessica Hsu talks about massive problems in Haiti tourism development

A number of presentations focused on mass tourism activities and the exclusion of local needs from the process to add to the woes from climate change.

The challenges to a healthy Caribbean tourism industry may be substantial - but also the opportunities are gigantic and these were examined in depth. However, it takes the destination states' willingness to engage and manage their own tourism for benefits to be apparent.

Presenters outlined a swathe of fascinating innovations on hand to help tourism in the right direction.

In particular, there appears to be both an upsurge in community-related tourism in the area and a major extension of linkages between sectors to deliver tourism benefits to a wider stakeholder base.

Green tourism auditing and certification was the subject for a number of presentations as it has the capacity to future-proof the industry, to minimize energy and water use, manage waste and to maximize social and cultural benefits.

Compete Caribbean, one of the sponsors of the event, is a private sector development program that provides technical assistance grants and investment funding to support productive development policies, business climate reforms, clustering initiatives and Small and Medium Size Enterprise (SME) development activities in the region.

It has signified its intention to assist in the creation of a Caribbean sustainable certification system, which would assist all Caribbean tourism businesses minimizing their footprints and maximizing their benefits.

An existing hotel energy management scheme - CHENACT is already in operation in pilot mode  with an innovative approach which seeks to monetize carbon savings in the form of CERs (Certified Emission Reductions) which could come as a result of Clean Development Mechanism schemes which could benefit from the Caribbean states status.

An innovative sustainable tourism mapping initiative was also unveiled at the event - Skyview already produces maps of the area and they intend to create apps and maps to assist tourists find sustainable lodgings, car hire and all the other tourist needs.

Russ Jarman Price, Chairman, Inglefield, Ogilvy & Mather unveils Pure Grenada strategy

Finally one partner of the event who has a massive opportunity at hand was Pure Grenada - the new marketing brand for Grenada. This is seen as a branding entity for the whole destination relating to both tourism and all other export activities, and certainly has a fabulous product on its hands.

You'll be hearing much more about Pure Grenada and sustainable tourism on this island shortly.

Valere Tjolle @ValereTjolle [email protected]

Latest sustainable tourism offer: A Past, Present and Future Full of Opportunities HERE



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