Caribbean needs to protect seas to maintain arrivals

Regional and international environmental organizations gathered last week in Colon City, Panama, to prepare a 2004-2006 Regional Plan of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Activities, based on the Global Programme of Action of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).Policy-making representatives of the Latin America and Caribbean nations, high-level technical experts and advisors, donors, and stakeholders from all sectors benefiting from and impacting the coastal and marine ecosystems, all worked together to identify priorities and collectively lay the foundations of collaborative action plans.  The underlying premise is the notion that the partnership represents a better strategy to address the issues than each partner operating independently.

At the end of the three-day consultative gathering, a Regional Partnership Framework was forged for the implementation of the plan in the Wider Caribbean - with tourism and coastal development identified as one of the priority issues.  In this area, the Caribbean Alliance for Sustainable (CAST), the environmental division of the Caribbean Hotel Association (CHA), assumed a leadership role to ensure that the tourism-specific agenda was addressed conscientiously.

“The Caribbean Sea is undoubtedly a major asset in the region’s tourism industry, linking and nurturing us all,” said CAST Program Manager, Jennifer Dohrmann-Alpert, who attended the meeting.  “Tourism, in turn, as the recognized driving engine of economic growth in the Caribbean, impacts on this asset and its key marine ecosystems.  Therefore, we have a collective responsibility to ensure and maintain a sustainable balance between our commercial tourism activities and the health of the marine environment,” she concluded.

The regional plan includes a specific mandate to “Facilitate the expansion and/or replication of regional eco-certification [such as, Green Globe 21, Blue Flag Caribbean, Quality Tourism for the Caribbean], in partnership with the Caribbean Alliance for Sustainable Tourism and the Caribbean Tourism Organization.”

In addition, the tourism working group incorporated three topics submitted by CAST:  the need for promotion and inclusion of tax incentives for the improved environmental performance of the tourism industry; the need for public sector infrastructure to address the needs of the industry; and, the strengthening of private and public sector partnerships to further enable and sustain the growth of the sector.