Thursday 27th July 2006

The Greater Caribbean this week
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The zone advances

The convention establishing the Sustainable Tourism Zone of the Greater Caribbean (STZC) was signed by the heads of state and/or government of the Association of Caribbean States in December 2001.

The convention proposes to contribute to the achievement of sustainability in the tourist destinations and to determine tourism indicators, which would bring about changes leading to the attainment of sustainability in this sector.

More specifically, article 3 of the convention states that tourism constitutes the main economic activity for most countries of the region referred to as the Greater Caribbean and that it represents, in itself, a significant factor in foreign exchange earnings, economic and social development.

All parties agreed to “encourage the realisation of strategies and specific plans of action toward facilitating the development of tourist products, an increase in the added value of the Caribbean tourist product, and greater demand for the region.

The Sustainable Tourism Zone (STZ) is, to the author’s knowledge, a unique initiative which will position the Greater Carib-bean as the only such zone in the world. The STZ will also provide new and challenging opportunities for its members to view and pursue sustainable tourism development from a different perspective and through the use of sustainability indicators.

The UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) describes the indicators as “measures of existence or severity of current issues, signals of risk and potential need for action, and means to identify and measure the results of our actions.” Indicators pinpoint the key issues which tourism planners and managers must regard.

Over time, the ACS has launched a series of initiatives aimed at developing specific criteria for proposed destinations entering the zone at building capacity in member states. These have been supported by the Governments of Mexico, the Dominican Republic and the Foreign Commonwealth Office—Global Opportunities Fund through the British High Commission.

Member states have been asked to identify and propose tourist destinations to be included in the zone. Several guidelines have been developed to assist governments in the initial process of selecting a tourism destination for inclusion in the STZ.

To facilitate monitoring management and data collection, applicant tourism destinations should not be a widely spread out area. This process would be easier if the applicant destination boundaries are similar to or the same as one or more areas with specific jurisdictions such as counties, parishes or other government-defined areas.

Ideally, the destination must be easily defined and should have a range of tourist facilities and products including a variety of accommodation and tourist attractions.

Five pilot destinations selected for inclusion in the STZ in the Dominican Republic, Dominica, Jamaica, Mexico and Panama benefited from sustainability assessments and gap analyses. A list of recommendations to address the gaps identified and an action plan were prepared for consideration of tourism officials.

La Romana Bayahibe in the Dominican Republic was recently used as a test site for the first ACS workshop on using the tourism sustainability index, a quantification system developed to capture the level of sustainability across all dimensions in a single number.

These initiatives have served to create a greater level of awareness amongst member states and enhance the visibility of the zone within the Greater Caribbean and beyond. The results of the pilot cases will serve to inform future initiatives and act as a catalyst for resource mobilisation efforts aimed at fully establishing the Sustainable Tourism Zone of the Caribbean.

Jasmin Garraway is the sustainable tourism director of the Association of Caribbean States. The opinions expressed are not necessarily the official views of the ACS. Comments and reactions can be sent to [email protected]









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