Caribbean Sustainable Tourism Conference Begins in Trinidad


Above: Port of Spain (CJ Photo)

By Alexander Britell

PORT OF SPAIN — Sustainable tourism is one of the region’s newest buzz words. But what does sustainable mean?

Is it about making destinations eco-friendly? Does it involve solar-power hotels? Or is it a matter of changing the way visitors interact with their destinations?

These will be among the questions at the 14th Annual Caribbean Conference on Sustainable Tourism Development, which officially begins in Port of Spain, Trinidad on Monday.

The event, which is organized by the Caribbean Tourism Organization, first launched in 1997. Last year’s event was held in Guyana.

It is being hosted by the government of Trinidad under the theme “Keeping the Right Balance: Enhancing Destination Sustainability Through Products, Partnerships and Profitability.”

Above: Trinidad and Tobago Tourism Minister Stephen Cadiz

According to Trinidad and Tobago Tourism Minister Stephen Cadiz sustainable tourism is about engagement between visitors and locals.

“Sustainable tourism is where I [as a tourist] don’t want to be an object when I visit the islands — me, coming into the islands as a foreigner, I do not want people to look at tourists as an object,” he told Caribbean Journal on Sunday. “And I do not want to come into the territory, looking at the locals, and saying, ‘how quaint.’ Sustainable tourism is about making it work — of getting in, experiencing the sounds and the smells and the accents and everything that is of interest to you.”

Above: the Hyatt Regency in Port of Spain (CJ Photo)

The conference, which is being held at the Hyatt Regency in Port of Spain, is being attended by delegates from across the region and Europe, including Carlos Vogeler, the regional director for the Americas at the United Nations World Tourism Organization.

It will cover a host of topics, from rethinking destination development to creating and managing sustainable Caribbean destinations.

Doing the latter may not take as much effort as might be commonly thought, Cadiz said.

“I think what we have in the Caribbean is as good or better than any other attraction anywhere else in the world, and I think we sell ourselves short constantly by saying, ‘you know what we need to do? we need to do water parks, or zip-lining through the forest,” he said. “We don’t need to create the Eiffel Tower, or an Orlando amusement city, to bring people to the Caribbean.”

The conference concludes on Thursday.

Caribbean Journal will be providing comprehensive coverage from the conference. For updates on Twitter, follow @caribjournal and the #stc14 hashtag.