Basil Springer column to appear in the Barbados Advocate's Business Monday on 15 December 2003!


It's no longer enough for journalists themselves to think they are doing a good job. For journalism to continue to receive constitutional protection -- and continue to attract readers and viewers -- readers and viewers have to agree that journalism plays an essential role in our democratic society - Jan Schaffer, Executive Director, Pew Center for Civic Journalism

At the recently concluded Caribbean Media Exchange on Sustainable Tourism CMEx V in Barbados, there was general agreement among regional journalists that the CMEx series can now be heralded as the best way to get the Caribbean media to embrace tourism. Also, the positive response to the invitation to attend the CMEx series by eminent Caribbean and extra-Caribbean public and private sector personnel is testimony to the fact that journalism plays an essential role in sustainable tourism and indeed in our democratic society.

Journalists have the responsibility to effectively communicate between social partners in the community. This places the media at a focal point to be an integrating force in the development of Caribbean economies. The success of CMEx has created a demand for Caribbean media to embrace other sectors in the same way as the Caribbean media have embraced tourism. The logical extension of CMEx on sustainable tourism would be to have independent CMEx events on sustainable agriculture, sustainable manufacturing and maybe to explore Caribbean journalists embracing corporate governance and trade union issues, for example. This, I submit, would be a planning and implementation nightmare.

There is a reasonable solution, however, if you regard tourism as the largest industry that is common to all countries within the Caribbean, which is inextricably linked, through community tourism, with all elements in the economy. Then through the current CMEx model the media can be linked through sustainable tourism to other sectors or public and private sector groups in the region. In other words, we can use sustainable tourism as the nucleus and then consider its linkages with other sectors and social partners.

The CMEx programme consists of several sessions over a three day period and the topics in each of these sessions can be chosen to focus on a specific link with sustainable tourism. In addition, special interest groups such as politicians, NGOs or labour union representatives could be invited and benefit from the interactive dialogue format which characterises the CMEx design.

If this is adopted there will be tendency to expand a CMEx event to accommodate all these additional linkages and interest groups but one of the observations so far has been that there are significant benefits to having a fairly compact group. This reminds me of the saying that there are Œeconomies of scale of production but not economies of scale of management‚. This implies that there is an optimal group size for any given management team. CMEx‚s team is no exception and there is an optimal group size for any CMEx event.

Because of the bi-annual frequency of the CMEx series, there will be an opportunity to skillfully design the content of a given CMEx event and partition the corresponding invitees to ensure that the growing demand for CMEx participation is satisfied. Another benefit of maintaining a central focus on sustainable tourism is to attract the continuing sponsorship from the airline, hotel, tourism marketing and tourism services entities who currently engage in a smart partnership with the CMEx series in a mutual beneficial way. This proposed design is likely to strengthen the potential for sustainable financial success which will allow CMEx to develop its own full time management team rather than to rely on the generosity of continued volunteer input.

Already, informal measurement is being made as to the impact of CMEx on increasing the quality of journalism in the tourism sector. This assessment process can be made much more sophisticated as CMEx evolves into a fully financially self sustainable model thus providing objective indicators of the success of the communication process which plays an essential role in our democratic society.

At the recently concluded CMEx, journalists were freely admitting that not only had they benefited from attending the CMEx series, but there was a big gap between their existing practices and their full potential to contribute to the development of our societies. The CMEx events have opened their eyes and it is an experience which would be difficult to simulate in the traditional training settings. The present CMEx Journalist Awards could be the nucleus of such an assessment and accreditation system.

The experience so far indicates that the CMEx model has potential not only to allow Caribbean Media to embrace tourism but through linkages with tourism to contribute significantly to the building of communities.My observation, having been involved in the pre-natal stage of CMEx and having attended all the events is that it is a significant tool which is contributing to sustainable economic development in the small island states and emerging nations in the Caribbean. The vision, for it to be extended to small states throughout the world where sustainable tourism is at the core of development, should be nurtured into a programme of action.

(Dr. Basil Springer GCM is Change-Engine Consultant, Caribbean Business Enterprise Trust Inc. (CBET) -