Friday, April 19, 2013

Selling Sustainability in the Caribbean - Melanie Reffes

Port of Spain

Hosted for the third time by the twin isles of Trinidad and Tobago and organized by the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), 14th Annual Caribbean Conference on Sustainable Tourism Development (STC-14) took center-stage at the Hyatt Regency in Port of Spain.  Bringing together the key players from government officials and hoteliers to academics and policy-makers, STC-14 focused on achieving profitability while improving the region’s tourism product.  Themed “Keeping the Right Balance: Enhancing Destination Sustainability through Products, Partnerships, Profitability”, the conference examined what is critical to the economic sustainability of the world’s most traveled to warm weather destination.
Cutting the ribbon at the opening ceremony (credit: B. Cancellare/CTO) 

Hyatt Regency Trinidad ( credit: M. Reffes ) 
“Devoting resources to develop a sustainable tourism industry has a very strong potential for a high return on investment, “said Beverly Nicholson Doty, chairman, Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and commissioner tourism, USVI.  Linking a destination's commitment to sustainable tourism with its profitability, she added today's discerning traveler  is increasingly aware of how a country cares for its environment.  “Visitors are relentless in their pursuit of destinations, accommodations, activities and attractions which have implemented sustainability practices and policies especially in a region like ours that is rich in natural resources and cultural heritage.” With an eye to the future, she added “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.”
Beverly Nicholson Doty, chairman, Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and commissioner tourism, USVI. (credit: B. Cancellare/CTO)
Stephen Cadiz, tourism minister, Trinidad and Tobago, Beverly Nicholson Doty, chairman, Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and commissioner tourism and Hugh Riley, secretary general, CTO
(credit: B. Cancellare/CTO )

 Green Makes Green
Jake Kheel, grandson of one of the developers of the Punta Cana Resort in the Dominican Republic, said going green has kept visitor occupancy levels high while making money for the resort.  Initiatives that have earned the resort environmental accolades include opening the largest recycling operation in the country, a water treatment plant that reuses water for the area's golf courses and a worm composting system that turns food garbage into fertilizer.  Targeting the dive market, he added coral restoration programs will soon be available to resort guests. “Sustainability is very much part of our economic model,” he added.

Jake Kheel, Punta Cana Resort ( credit: B. Cancellare/CTO) 
Punta Cana Resort ( PC Resort ) 

Also applauded for his commitment to eco-sustainability, Ewald Biemans, owner of Aruba’s Bucuti & Tara Beach Resorts said his mantra to’ reuse, reduce and recycle ‘is the economic and environmental road map responsible for the success of his twin resorts. “Necessity is the mother of invention, “he said “we had a choice to either increase our rates or reduce our costs by saving and conserving energy.” Innovative examples include recycling boxes to make door signs, installing electronic eye faucets in the bathroom, eco-thermostats in the rooms and pouring drinks in plastic cups only when guests are headed to the beach.   With a commitment to the local community, he added “we serve local Balashi and Heineken beer because those brands are the only two that use recycled glass bottles , we involve local school children in our monthly beach clean-ups and we pay all expenses if a guest wants to take a stray pet to home to North America.“

Ewald Biemans, owner Bucuti & Tara Beach Resorts ( credit: B. Cancellare/CTO )

Bucuti Beach Resort , Aruba ( credit: Bucuti) 

Sustainable Sound Bites

The time has come to convert the rhetoric into practical vehicles that can deliver the goods for generations to come.” Winston Dookeran,   Acting Prime Minister, Trinidad and Tobago

Winston Dookeran,   Acting Prime Minister, Trinidad and Tobago ( credit: B. Cancellare/CTO)

“While Trinidad and Tobago does not have the luxury of stretches of while sandy beaches, the country has a lot to offer.  We have a culture that is so mixed and varied; which is where our tourism product lies rather than the typical sea and sun tourism.” Stephen Cadiz, tourism minister, Trinidad and Tobago

Stephen Cadiz, tourism minister, Trinidad and Tobago ( credit: B. Cancellare/CTO)

“Caribbean tourism is embracing responsible tourism not as an option, but as a condition for its continuous growth.” Dr. Martha Honey, co-director of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Responsible Travel

Dr. Martha Honey ( credit: Center for Responsible Travel )

 “Wherever we are from in the Caribbean, an essential component of our sustainability strategy has to be an action strategy.  We must face the issues head on and implement solutions like intra-Caribbean travel, quality of our service and the CTO’s new Total Visitor Satisfaction Program.“Hugh Riley, secretary general, CTO
Hugh Riley, secretary general, CTO ( credit: B. Cancellare/CTO) 
  The Exhibition Floor 

(credit: B. Cancellare/CTO) 

(photo credit: B. Cancellare/CTO) 

 And the Winner Is.........
The CTO Travel Mole Sustainable Tourism award winners included Guyana’s Karanambu Lodge that took home the ‘Caribbean Excellence in Sustainable Tourism’ award, Jamaica’s Tryall Club won the ‘Sustainable Accommodation’ prize and The Puerto Rico Tourism Company was presented  with the ‘Destination Stewardship’ award.
 Karanambu Lodge ( credit: KLodge) 
Tryall Club ( credit: Tryall ) 
To welcome delegates , a cultural extravaganza showcased the music and heritage of the twin islands including performances by Marq Pierre, Junior Calypso Monarch, Mason Hall Tobago Folk singers , QED Three Tenors and Carnival of Colors . (photo credits: M.Reffes/B. Cancellare/CTO)

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