PUERTO RICO AND SUSTAINABLE TOURISM

CREATIVITY AND PRAISE – BASIL SPRINGER COLUMN APPEARS IN THE BARBADOS ADVOCATE’S BUSINESS MONDAY ON 26 MAY 2008

PUERTO RICO AND SUSTAINABLE TOURISM

“Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he” – Proverbs 29:18

When one is faced with changes which are due to the external environment, where the circumstances are beyond our control, the strategies that have to be adopted are different from a situation where the change is due to our internal environment, where the circumstances are within our control.

In the latter situation, we can call on government to tinker with legislation and the fiscal and monetary policy, on behalf of the people, but in the former situation we have to learn how to survive on an individual basis. We must cut and contrive.

The current fuel and food crises are examples of a severe change in the external environment – we must therefore cut and contrive on an individual basis in order to survive, with the government buffering the needs of the most vulnerable. There have been calls to change our light bulbs, adopt a more vegetarian diet, increase the intensity of backyard gardening, conserve energy, aggressively pursue renewable energy options, take vacations in the region, attract high net worth individuals from diverse markets, engage the Diaspora, “cut out the middle man” where beneficial, increase our productivity, export more, stimulate entrepreneurship, promote community tourism, develop our culture, brand the Caribbean and listen to the youth. All this is taking place in the interest of sustainable development.

Tourism is the largest industry in the Caribbean and it is sensible to focus on sustainable tourism since this will undoubtedly contribute to sustainable development. According to the Travel Foundation, sustainable tourism is about making a positive difference when we travel – in the following ways; (1) Enjoying ourselves and taking responsibility for our actions – respecting local cultures and the natural environment; (2) Giving fair economic returns to local families – helping to spread the benefit of our visit to those who need it most; (3) Recognising that often water and energy are precious resources that we need to use carefully; (4) Helping to protect endangered wildlife and preserve the natural and cultural heritage of the places we visit; and (5) Protecting and enhancing favourite destinations for the future enjoyment of visitors and the people who live there.

Just over a week ago the 17th CMEx event in less than seven years took place in San Juan, Puerto Rico thanks to our many generous sponsors. The theme was “Embracing the Diaspora: Connecting Communities”. There were 17 youth delegates (age 15-22) among the hundred strong participant base from the Caribbean (English, French, Spanish and Dutch), Europe, North, Central and South America. This provided a refreshing element of ethnic and cultural diversity.

Terestella Gonz├ílez Denton, Executive Director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company, in her welcome to the delegates to Puerto Rico said “We at the Puerto Rico Tourism company are impressed with the increasing quantity and quality of reports as media operatives are clearly becoming more and more in tune with an industry that drives the economy of our Caribbean region. In Puerto Rico, sustainability is what we practise and while it has been central to our plans and programs, meetings like CMEx help to sharpen our focus in today’s rapidly changing travel and tourism industry”

The Honorable Carlisle Powell, Minister of Communications, Works, Public Utilities, Posts, Physical Planning, Natural Resources & Environment in the Nevis administration made a presentation on “Leading CARICOM in Geothermal Development”. He was so impressed with the CMEx family and its environment that he was moved to say on more than one occasion that all Ministers and Directors of Tourism should be exposed to the CMEx experience.

The final session of the meeting addressed the prospect of taking CMEx to a higher level as it continues to be guided by its beacon: “To be the premier communications organisation promoting sustainable tourism, through media and smart partnerships, to create holistic wealth for all peoples, including those in Latin America, the Caribbean and other Emerging Markets.”

At the closing dinner and awards ceremony held at the Grand Ballroom of the Holiday Inn hotel there was a moving moment when the youth delegates presented Bevan Springer, CMEx’s Executive Producer of all seventeen events, with an attractive plaque with the inscription ” To Bevan – On behalf of the Youth delegates of CMEx, past and present, thank you for recognising the importance of youth to the continuing growth and sustainability of tourism in the Caribbean and encouraging us to take an active role in our futures. As Mahatma Gandhi said: We must be the change we wish to see in the world.”

Just a reminder of the lecture on “The Global Food Situation and its Impact on the
Caribbean” by Caribbean professional Chandra A. Madramootoo Ph.D., Ing.,
FCSBE, FASABE, James McGill Professor and Dean Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences McGill University, Macdonald Campus, which will take place on Tuesday, May 27 at 7.30 pm at the Barbados Yacht Club. This lecture will be hosted by the Barbados Society of Technologists in Agriculture and we shall be very pleased if you, your colleagues and your families could attend. Light liquid refreshments will be served.

However challenging the crisis, where there is vision we shall overcome.

(Dr. Basil Springer GCM is Change-Engine Consultant, Caribbean Business
Enterprise Trust Inc. – www.cbetmodel.org)

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