Organized by the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) in collaboration with the Bermuda Department of Tourism, the 12th annual Sustainable Tourism Conference (STC -12), was held in Bermuda in April. Two-hundred business, political and tourism leaders as well as tour operators and travel agents from the Caribbean, Canada and the US gathered at the Fairmont Southampton to discuss green tourism and examine key issues that affect tourism numbers in the region.
“This year’s conference encouraged the Caribbean to breathe new life into its commitment to strategically develop the tourism industry in a sustainable manner,” said Hugh Riley, secretary general, CTO, ‘our hope is that STC-12 will inspire the entire region to continue its efforts in responsible resource use and overall sustainable tourism practices.”
With the theme “Keeping the Right Balance: Rising Above the Numbers” ,the conference opened with Bermuda Premier Paula Cox outlining a tourism model for Bermuda based on cooperation between the tourism and the business sectors. "Tourism has always been seen by this government as the leveller and from a policy perspective it is important that tourism fortunes change and rise,” she said “we consider it imperative to look for new sources of business so that we have a sustainable economy that is both healthy and vibrant.”
CTO secretary general Hugh Riley added while the tourism sector faces a variety of threats, the region has contributed little to climate change. “We are low carbon emitters,” he told delegates, “no one in his or her right mind could seriously think that the Caribbean is a significant contributor to global warming, but we could suffer the consequences if climate change and rising sea levels create conditions that would devastate our economies."
Patrice Minors, minister of tourism added the elements that attract tourists to a destination often make them more vulnerable to the pressures of tourism. “We have all seen beaches packed with umbrellas and sun-burnt visitors lined up like sardines which is why sustainability is essential for the survival of the visitor’s experience. “
Travel industry veteran Judy Karwacki, owner of Small Planet Consulting discussed the importance of the visitor experience or the ‘experiential traveler’ in today’s marketplace. “A tourism product is what you buy, but a tourism experience is what you remember. When travelers connect to a destination, there is intent to recommend it to others.” Known for her work in responsible tourism, Jacqueline Kuehnel, owner JK Consulting discussed how to avoid the “green washing” trap or making false claims about the sustainability of a hotel or a product. “It is important to be honest when communicating your organization’s sustainability platform, “she noted, “if you exaggerate your claims, you risk eroding public trust, increasing regulatory risk and damaging your reputation.”
Jamie Sweeting, Royal Caribbean International's vice president of environmental stewardship walked delegates through the environmental priorities in place at the cruise company. “Our key initiatives include minimizing the use of water on board ships, recycling, waste reduction and reducing fuel burn.” Also championing sustainability in the region, Seleni Matus, Director of Tourism for Belize discussed efforts to create standards that are recognized globally. “With more than 900 million international tourists having traveled in 2010, there is an urgent need to consider sustainability and standardize its evaluation because consumers are confused.” Adding even the industry is facing challenges defining sustainability; she added “"There is an opportunity to define the change needed by defining guidelines and embedding them at a country and company level."
The 2011 Caribbean Excellence in Sustainable Tourism prizes were awarded to Harrison’s Cave in Barbados and Surama Village Eco-Lodge in Guyana. The popular Barbados attraction picked up top honors for its recent environmentally-responsible upgrades and Surama Village Eco-Lodge, operated by the local Makushi Amerindians, was awarded the distinction for their green management practices.
Entertained by Bermudian Gombey dancers and treated to authentic island delicacies, delegates also had the opportunity to experience Bermuda with tours to the UNESCO World Heritage town of St. George with its cobblestone streets, pocket gardens and former military fortifications, Royal Naval Dockyard which once housed a British naval base and today bustles with shops and restaurants and the National Museum of Bermuda.
Planning for 2012, it was announced STC-13 will be held in Georgetown, Guyana. "Guyana’s tourism product has its genesis in sustainable tourism development, “said Tameca Sukhdeo-Singh, deputy director, Guyana Tourism Authority,” from the inception, the government realized that we needed to place our focus on developing a tourism product that protected our environment. “
For more information, visit www.caribbeanstc.com.
The Bermuda Buzz
The Bermuda Department of Tourism launched www.GoToBermuda.com providing user-generated content for mobile and social media channels. “Like our island, the website is a user-friendly experience, using beautiful imagery and in-depth information to tell the Bermuda story,” said Patrice Minors, minister of tourism.
Air Tran began nonstop service on April 7 from Baltimore with additional nonstop flights from Atlanta starting on May 26. Service from both cities will continue through October 30th.
Sitting pretty at Bermuda’s highest point, Fairmont Southampton’s Willow Stream Spa is the largest wellness haven on the island with an indoor heated pool and creative treatments like a ‘Golf Facial” that hydrates sun-drenched skin. Visit www.fairmont.com.
Crowning a limestone cliff overlooking a pink sandy beach, the Reefs hotel welcomed culinary wizard Jason Koppinger as the new Executive Chef. Formerly with the Westin in Grand Cayman, Chef Jason is adding pizzazz to the menus at the hotels three restaurants. “I am especially influenced by the flavors of Asian cuisine, which I blend into locally-sourced foods and seasonal offerings.” Visit www.thereefs.com.
Visit www.GoToBermuda.com or call 1-800-BERMUDA.
Visit www.GoToBermuda.com or call 1-800-BERMUDA.