Three OECS Member States topped the Caribbean Tourism Organisation's 2019 Caribbean Sustainable Tourism Awards winning five of the eight prestigious tourism honours.
The Caribbean Conference on Sustainable Tourism Development (STC2019), held this year on the 26-29 August at the Beachcombers Hotel in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, offers a regional forum for information exchange on the successes and pitfalls of national, regional and international initiatives.
STC2019, organised by the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) in partnership with the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Tourism Authority, featured the Caribbean Sustainable Tourism Awards, which celebrated entities from the CTO member countries that embrace environmental sustainability across various tourism development and related disciplines.
The five OECS award winners, selected out of a total of 38 entries, were:
- True Blue Bay Boutique Resort in GrenadaWinner of the Excellence in Sustainable Tourism Award, which recognises a product or initiative that contributes to a better quality of life in the destination and provides a unique visitor experience.
- Kido Foundation in Carriacou, GrenadaWinner of the Nature Conservation Award, which commends any group, organisation, tourism business or attraction working towards the protection of natural and/or marine resources.
- Jus’ Sail in Saint LuciaWinner of the Community Benefit Award, which honours an entity that manages tourism well for the long-term benefit of the destination, local people and visitors.
- Maroon and String Band Music Festival Committee in Carriacou, GrenadaWinner of the Culture and Heritage Protection Award, which honours a tourism organisation or initiative making a significant contribution to protect and promote heritage.
- Richmond Vale Academy in St. Vincent and the GrenadinesWinner of the Tourism Social Enterprise, a special award recognising an initiative by an individual or group/association which addresses social problems by applying innovative tourism development ideas.
Maria Fowell, Tourism Specialist at the OECS Commission stressed the OECS Commission's dedication to support the implementation of sustainable tourism policies and programmes in its Member States.
“The OECS Commission remains committed to sustainable tourism development and balanced growth through tourism as we strive to achieve the OECS vision of a better quality of life for our people. The dedication of our Member States is without a doubt reflected in the outstanding OECS representation amongst the winners of this year’s STC2019 Awards,” Fowell said.
CTO’s Sustainable Tourism Specialist, Amanda Charles, noted the high level of interest and commitment to sustainable tourism development exhibited by the region’s public and private tourism industry stakeholders, making the region "a world leader in responsible travel and tourism.”
True Blue Bay Boutique Resort is a family owned, 68 room hotel on the island of Grenada. Guests can enjoy diving, yoga, spa treatments, market tours, complimentary beach pick up and drop offs, cooking classes, rum and chocolate tastings and MUCH more. The resort also facilitates weddings and hosts the annual Grenada Chocolate Fest. True Blue Bay has demonstrated an ongoing commitment to protecting the environment in hotel and business operations (including the construction of new rooms) in the most eco-friendly way possible.
The resort has planted mangrove on property and also does sea bed clean ups. True Blue Bay Resort also supports the local community in many ways. There is a green team, consisting of at least 1 member of staff from each department. The green team is responsible for multiple beach and roadside clean ups as well as school visits, aimed at raising awareness among the younger generations and providing ways for them to protect their environment. The resort also has a “Pack for a purpose” initiative, which encourages visitors to bring with them school and clinic supplies which are then distributed in various communities, ultimately contributing to improving the lives of many families. The resort has adopted a school, the Vendomme Roman Catholic School, and EC$250, 000 was raised for its renovation which was completed in time for the 2013/2014 school year. Funds are still continuously being raised for the upkeep of the school, as well as for books, computers and other supplies. The boutique resort has also been and continues to be instrumental in raising awareness via the Grenada Hotel & Tourism Authority (GHTA), aimed at encouraging other hotels to adopt sustainable tourism practices and collaborate whenever possible.
The Kido Foundation is a non-profit organisation, established in 1995 in Prospect Carriacou. Its mission is to preserve the natural ecosystems, fauna and flora, which has been done through conservation activities, environmental research, youth education, micro enterprise development and eco-tourism. The Foundation has successfully completed 22 environmental conservation projects. The Kido Foundation has been monitoring Hawksbills & endangered Leatherback Turtles in Carriacou as a member of WIDECAST (Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network) since 2002. The number of turtle nests in Carriacou has increased from 35 in 2001 to a peak of 500 nesting activities in 2017.
Kido offers training and salaries for local nature guides, volunteer positions to local and foreign students and research assistants and Turtle Watching experiences for community members and foreign visitors. The Foundation has planted more than 20,000 red mangrove saplings which are critical in protecting the coastal zones.
Established the first community group of its kind in Carriacou: CWC or Creative Women of Carriacou and the Kids With Cameras Carriacou initiative founded in 2012 which provides digital cameras to youth who are encouraged to hike nature trails and shoot original photos of Carriacou’s biodiversity.
All of these activities help to establish an appreciative culture of nature and wildlife conservation while promoting Carriacou as an experience-rich ecotourism destination.
Jus' Sail delivers authentic laidback sailing experiences to visitors to Saint Lucia aboard an original beach built wooden Carriacou Sloop. In the off season Jus' Sail delivers a sail training programme to unemployed local youth. The programme is a work readiness & personal development initiative with over 70 graduates now having gone through the programme. The majority (over 80%) having entered the work place within the maritime and wider tourism sector are still in employment months and years later.
Jus’ Sail contributes to the communities within Saint Lucia through offering a career path for marginalised and at risk youth into the maritime sector with internationally recognised certification and a tried and tested training programme which delivers marked changes in attitude and skills within the youth participants. Young persons who were losing hope of gaining meaningful employment grow immensely in confidence and attain a more positive can do attitude, backed by practical skills in sailing and seamanship plus certification in swimming.
Jus’ Sail differentiates itself from the other water-based tour companies in Saint Lucia by focusing upon authentic sailing experiences (rather than viewing the Pitons) and social/environmental responsibility.
The Carriacou Maroon and String Band Music Festival Committee has for the past 10 years, planned and executed the Carriacou Maroon and String Band Music Festival in the last weekend of April. The event is heavily focused on preserving the African heritage and traditions of Carriacou through an authentic display of maroon culture.
The Festival offers visitors the chance to witness the traditional practice of a 'maroon' - a celebration offering thanks for the last harvest and asking for good fortune during the upcoming planting season. The three-day festival is marked with traditional songs, drums, dance, the eating of smoked food and cultural performances.
The Committee partners with community groups and the Grenada Tourism Authority to ensure that students and children in the various villages in Carriacou are involved in the Festival. Children are trained in the art of different aspects of the Maroon Community and they display their skills at the Festival. Throughout the festival, visitors are invited to partake in the festivities.
String band music continues to survive as a mainstay of the festival. It became one of the musical genres of the freed slaves and Europeans, mainly the Scottish, who settled on the northern sides of Carriacou and Petite Martinique.
Richmond Vale Academy’s Diving and Hiking Center rents out rooms to national and international guests and groups and provides a unique sustainable eco-tourism experience in St. Vincent. Through PADI diving courses, nature hikes, recreation and study programs, people from many countries enjoy their visit to St. Vincent while at the same time support the Academy’s engagement in environmental protection and sustainable initiatives.
Several tree planting actions, beach clean up activities, marine protection and public awareness campaigns throughout the island have been carried out and supported by the center. More than 20 tons of trash have been removed from beaches, rivers and communities. The latest project the center has engaged in was the restoration of the La Soufriere Cross Country Trail, in collaboration with the National Parks, Rivers and Beaches Authority, the Forestry Department, and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Small Grant Facility.
The center is furthermore an example and model for the island in terms of its sustainable practices such as solar power, recycling, water harvesting and organic farming.
Other STC2019 award winners were:
- The Guyana Tourism Authority: Winners of the Destination Stewardship Award, which honours a CTO-member destination that is making solid strides towards sustainable tourism management at the destination level;
- Copal Tree Lodge, Belize: Winner of the Agro-Tourism Award, which recognises a business that offers an agro-tourism product incorporating elements of food/agriculture production, culinary output and visitor experience; and
- Karanmabu Lodge, Guyana: Winners of the Sustainable Accommodation Award, which recognises small or medium-sized (less than 400 rooms) tourist accommodation facilities.
Other finalists from the OECS include Grenada Tourism Authority, Grenada; Habitation Belfont, Martinique; and Wallings Nature Reserve Inc., Antigua and Barbuda.
About the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States:
The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) is an international organisation dedicated to economic harmonisation and integration, protection of human and legal rights, and the encouragement of good governance among independent and non-independent countries in the Eastern Caribbean comprising Antigua and Barbuda, Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, Martinique and Guadeloupe.
About the Caribbean Tourism Organisation:
The Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO), with headquarters in Barbados, offices in New York and London and representation in Canada, is the Caribbean’s tourism development agency comprising membership of the region’s finest countries and territories including Dutch, English, French and Spanish-speaking, as well as a myriad of private sector allied members. The CTO’s vision is to position the Caribbean as the most desirable, year-round, warm weather destination, and its purpose is Leading Sustainable Tourism – One Sea, One Voice, One Caribbean.Among the benefits to its members the organisation provides specialised support and technical assistance in sustainable tourism development, marketing, communications, advocacy, human resource development, event planning & execution and research & information technology.