The Tobago House of Assembly (THA) hosted Tobago’s first sustainable tourism conference, titled ‘Developing Tobago’s Sustainable Tourism Potential’, in collaboration with the Embassy of the Dominican Republic.
Last week’s event was designed to engage THA officials and tourism practitioners in critical discussions about the importance of sustainable tourism to the development of the island’s tourism industry.
The development of the tourism industry significantly impacts natural resources, consumption patterns, pollution and social systems. Sustainable tourism planning and management is necessary to ensure the survival of the industry and the conservation of a destination’s culture and charm.
According to THA Tourism Secretary Tracey Davidson-Celestine, this conference is yet another initiative through which the Tobago House of Assembly demonstrated its commitment to the preservation of Tobago’s heritage and the Division of Tourism and Transportation reinforces its dedication to the development of a sustainable tourism product.
In delivering remarks at the conference, the Tourism Secretary said the environmental impacts of human consumption have become increasingly evident over the last few decades.
“For instance, as I stand here before you, 58 per cent of the world’s coral reefs are at risk. When one considers that ten per cent of all the coral reefs exist in the Caribbean and one of those precious pieces of the eco-system is our very own Buccoo Reef Marine Park, it is not difficult to understand why this seminar is so very important and so relevant to the work we are currently doing to develop and sustain Tobago’s tourism product,” she said.
Indeed, sustainability has become the buzzword of the tourism industry as more and more regions and countries seek to capitalise on this $1.4 trillion sector.
“With over one billion people travelling internationally in 2012, and the World Travel Organization projecting an estimated increase of three to four per cent in 2013, it is imperative that conscientious destinations such as ours seek to find and maintain a healthy balance between limits and usage in order to preserve the natural attributes and social charms that lure visitors to our island,” she said.
It is with this in mind that the Tobago House of Assembly has sought to initiate a very serious conversation about the topic of sustainable tourism practices with assistance from the Embassy of the Dominican Republic, said the Tourism Secretary.
Davidson-Celestine said sustainable tourism development requires buy-in from all stakeholders and strong political leadership to ensure widespread participation and consensus building.
“It is my hope that this forum marks the official start of such a partnership between the public and private sector. In this ever-changing world and constantly evolving industry, it is quite easy to lose sight of best practices and the authentic Tobago experience as we strive to emulate industry leaders. Conservative budgets, durable infrastructure and convenience are all important to the bottom-line of any company, but so is a satisfied clientele.”
A 2012 report by The Travel Foundation and Forum for the Future found that 75 per cent of consumers want a more responsible holiday.
In fact, 58 per cent of Condé Nast travellers indicated that their hotel choice is influenced by the support the hotel gives to the local community. And a 2010 study done by Trip Advisor stated that 71 per cent of those surveyed stated that they would make environmentally-friendly choices this year.
In his remarks, Dr Jose Serulle Ramia, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Dominican Republic, said, through his interpreter, that sustainable tourism is a great challenge in the world and related it to the survival of the planets.
“Tobago’s bio-diversity must be protected, with a sustainable criteria. The Dominican Republic also has a lot of natural beauty and if we want to sustain this beauty it must be with sustainable tourism,” he said.
The conference took place at the Magdalena Resort in Lowlands on Monday.