Sustainable Tourism: Rethinking Best Practices in the Caribbean

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Keynote speaker Doug Lansky spoke about the potential of sustainable tourism, a recurring theme at CTO's SOTIC conference.
Doug Lansky, SOTIC keynote speaker and destination development advisor, gave a compelling and entertaining talk about tourism development strategies in the Caribbean.

The challenges and opportunities of sustainable development
were top of mind at the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s State
of Tourism Industry Conference.

As sustainability has become an increasingly important benchmark for meeting and event site selection, it has also become a hot topic for hotel and tourism development worldwide. The traditional development goal of simply attracting more visitors, said keynote speaker Doug Lansky at the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s (CTO) State of Tourism Industry Conference (SOTIC) October 11-13, at the Shore Club, Turks & Caicos, is being replaced by a new business model. Indeed, all of the CTO and Caribbean island execs who spoke at SOTIC, including representatives from 14 Caribbean countries who presented media updates, talked about sustainable tourism development.

“Governments are increasingly supporting sustainable tourism practices, which is broadening the scope of investment opportunities in eco-friendly accommodations and green initiatives,” said the Hon. Kenneth Bryan, minister of tourism & ports, Cayman Islands and CTO chairman, in opening remarks at the conference. “Sustainable tourism has become a commitment that Caribbean leaders are taking seriously because it is recognized that the natural beauty of our islands is our most valuable asset, and we must be dedicated to preserving it for future generations. As a result, opportunities abound for eco-friendly type developments that align with the preferences of today’s global travelers. This can only be a good thing.”

Sustainability Baby Steps and What’s Next

Lansky began his SOTIC presentation with an aspirational video of the Caribbean island everyone in the audience wanted to visit. This was an imaginary destination so pristine that all plastic bags and bottles brought over by visitors were confiscated at the airport, along with sunscreen that didn’t meet reef-safe requirements. Free samples of reef-friendly sunscreen were gifted instead. Every aspect of this 100 percent sustainable island is something that we know about and that can be achieved, said Lansky. He speculated that the added value of an entirely eco-friendly destination would result in tourists happily footing the bill for the extra expense.

At present, however, “we can take baby steps in the right direction,” said Lansky. Specifically, planners can help walk the talk by sourcing hotels that:

•Use key cards to activate lighting in guest rooms.

•Provide refillable dispensers for hair and body products.

•Use only eco-friendly cleaning products.

•Have low-flow toilets.

•Replace plastic plates and cutlery with biodegradable alternatives.

•Have solar panels and/or other eco-friendly architectural features.

“These baby steps are the low-hanging fruit that most of us already know about, but for no good reason many hotels and venues simply haven’t gotten around to fixing yet,” Lansky told Prevue. “It seems crazy that in 2023 they haven’t become industry standard.”

As for the future, Lansky foresees sustainable tourism evolving into regenerative tourism, aligning with MICE-industry CSR activities. “Not littering is sustainable,” he explained. “Picking up trash someone else left behind or planting a tree or fixing a trail is leaving a place in BETTER shape. That’s regenerative tourism.”

Next steps for sustainable tourism in the Caribbean will be discussed at CTO’s Conference on Sustainable Tourism Development, to be held in Grenada from April 22-24, 2024. “Grenada’s commitment to sustainable and inclusive tourism aligns perfectly with the conference’s objectives,” said Grenada’s Minister of Tourism Lennox Andrews. “We are dedicated to showcasing the transformative power of sustainable tourism and its role as a push for social and economic growth and environmental stewardship throughout the Caribbean.” Earth Day will be celebrated on the opening day of the conference, with the theme “Planet vs. Plastics.”

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