Eco-Nation before Eco-Tourism

Caribbean nations ought to focus on developing 'eco-nations' before promoting the concept of eco-tourism, according to the Director-General of Tourism in the Bahamas, Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace

Speaking prior to the second Caribbean Media Exchange on Sustainable Tourism (CMEx) which will take place in Nassau in May, Vanderpool-Wallace said he is often criticised for saying there is no such thing as eco-tourism: "You have to be an eco-nation first before you can talk about eco-tourism".

Vanderpool-Wallace feels that Caribbean citizens do more damage to a country than its visitors. "Eco-tourism will flourish to the degree that we get our citizens to understand that we have to be people who conserve what we have". He believes that when visitors see locals behaving in a responsible manner, they will respect the region's environment.

The Tourism Director-General, who also chairs the Caribbean Hotel Association's (CHA) Government Affairs Committee, wants the industry to retrofit a lot of the badly-designed product to become more eco-friendly. "Let's fix the stuff we did wrong as we progress. Eco-tourism involves everything, it's not just a specific niche, it should be all-pervasive". He also said: "Too few of our citizens have an appreciation for the economic value of tourism, and we are just simply skimming the surface right now in terms of delivering a lot more of the benefits from tourism to so many of our communities”.

The CMEx team, which comprises Counterpart, Air Jamaica, Caribbean Broadcasting Union, Caribbean Hotel Association (CHA), CAST, EarthVoice and Great Places in the Caribbean, is supported by the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, British Colonial Hilton, SuperClubs, Sandals Resorts and the Central Bank of Barbados.

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