Wednesday, 23 July 2014

CTO: Coastal and Marine activities important to Caribbean tourism

Even as Caribbean countries diversify their economic bases, tourism can still play an instrumental role in economic revitalisation through its linkages with a host of other industries – agriculture, fishing, manufacturing, services, education, culture and transportation, says Sustainable Tourism Product Specialist at the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO), Gail Henry.

“However, in planning, developing and managing tourism with a view towards its sustainability, not only should we focus on the economic impact of tourism but also on the inter-connected planned and unplanned social and environmental impacts.”

Henry was at the time addressing the opening ceremony of the 3rd Symposium for Innovators in Coastal Tourism held in Grenada, last week.

She acknowledged that with approx-imately 70% of Caribbean populations living on or near the coast, coastal areas as well as coastal and marine activities such as fishing, yachting tourism are extremely important to the Caribbean.

“While the Caribbean tourism product is diversified, top of mind for many visitors is our spectacular coastlines, beaches and marine activities from scuba diving to sailing. However, as with most industries that rely on the use of scarce natural resources, the environmental impact of tourism on our coastal zones and inland can be substantial if not heeded and managed well.”

According to the Sustainable Tourism Product Specialist, sustainable tourism is about balancing competing needs and interests as well as participatory and integrated planning and management.

“A rough blueprint for addressing the challenges and embracing opportunities for enhancing Caribbean coastal and marine tourism based on collaborative regional and national level actions are the expected outcomes.

“Some of the world’s most successful tourist destinations today made many mistakes along the way. But it’s not just about avoiding the pitfalls, but about getting it right and striving to make sure that the various stakeholders understand that they have an important role to play in sustainable tourism development and management, so that everybody wins.”

With over 40 million cruise and stay-over visitors to the Caribbean annually, Henry told the tourism officials that they have over 40 million opportunities to demonstrate that they can address the region’s environmental challenges and to engender mutual respect for the natural resources on which tourism is hinged.

“Failure to protect the fragile coral reefs, terrestrial and marine biodiversity, beaches and coastal zones, mangroves and the livelihoods of traditional fishing and coastal communities is not an option. With the added impacts of climate change, it has become even more imperative that countries adopt an integrated planning and more sustainable approach to managing our coastal and marine assets,” she stressed. (TL)

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