Tourism should be the first choice - and not the last resort - for the youngest and brightest of the Caribbean region. This was the conviction voiced over and over by leading media, tourism industry and government participants at the fourth Caribbean Media Exchange on Sustainable Tourism (CMEx) on how to “Maximise the Economic Impact of Tourism” in Montego Bay, Jamaica in May.
Tourism is the biggest employer in the Caribbean region and generates the most wealth “so it is only logical that the industry should attract the best and the brightest of the youth of the Caribbean,” said Lelei LeLaulu, president of Counterpart International, whose 38 year-old organisation launched the media meetings in October 2001.
“Attracting the best not only assures sustainability of the region`s most important industry it also helps reinforce tourism in tough times,” added LeLaulu, at the end of fourth media exchange at the elegant and sustainable Half Moon resort in Montego Bay.
Participants discussed the importance of innovative public relations and marketing techniques; effective public/private sector collaboration; sex tourism and the impact of HIV/AIDS on the sector; to what extent can Caribbean countries continue to subsidise the huge profits of the cruise sector, among other issues.
A blueprint on the way forward, to be released by the CMEx
Secretariat and shared across the industry, will call on tourism planners to expand the social and economic benefits of tourism to locals, and for the media to play a more active role in keeping industry officials accountable.
CMEx is one of the region`s premier conferences on sustainable tourism education for local, regional and international journalists and editors. Counterpart International and several partner organisations host the symposia twice yearly to increase awareness among Caribbean people of the region`s lifeblood industry and its implications.
“We`re extremely happy with the results of our four Caribbean conferences,” said LeLaulu. “Journalists are getting an insider`s view of some of the key issues facing sustainable tourism development in the Caribbean and this is having a positive impact on the quantity and quality of their news reports,” he said.
He called on tourism planners in both the public and private sector to involve the region`s “fourth estate” in the shape and design of tourism polices that benefit ordinary people.