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Puerto Rico to host 8th Caribbean Conference on Sustainable Tourism Development

The conference would be held in San Juan between April and June 2006


May 6, 2005
Copyright © 2005 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

SCARBOROUGH, Tobago–The Puerto Rico Tourism Co. (PRTC) recently invited the Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) to hold its eighth annual Caribbean Conference on Sustainable Tourism Development (STC-8) in San Juan between April and June of 2006, said Karen Ford Warner, CTO acting secretary general.

The STCs are usually held in the second quarter of each year in a different location of the 31-member CTO. More than 300 delegates from throughout the region and abroad attended this year’s STC, held in Tobago.

"We want to demonstrate what Puerto Rico is prepared to do to host the STC-8," said Ivelisse M. Gaya González, PRTC director of research & development. Gaya attended the STC-7 with Mabel Sanabria, her sustainable tourism promotions assistant.

Ford Warner, who described Puerto Rico as a valued member of the CTO, said she was pleased PRTC agreed to host the STC-8 "because it [PRTC] has a lot to share with the delegates who will be attending the [eighth annual] conference.

"The CTO is attracted to Puerto Rico because the island is the site of four of the nine beaches in the Caribbean certified by the ‘Blue Flag’ program," Ford Warner said. In 2004, the program certified the Carolina public beach, Flamenco Beach (Culebra), the Luquillo public beach, and Escambrón beach (Old San Juan). The other five "Blue Flag" beaches in the region include four in Jamaica and one in the Dominican Republic (D.R.).

"We look forward to showing CTO delegates Puerto Rico’s environmental-friendly initiatives, featuring our four ‘Blue Flag’ beaches," said Gaya, who added the agency intends to coordinate its host program with the Puerto Rico Hotel & Tourism Association, the local Department of Natural & Environmental Resources, the National Parks Services, and El Yunque National Forest.

"Keeping the Right Balance" is the slogan used for the conferences, acknowledging the sustainability of tourism in the Caribbean, which Ford Warner said "requires proper coordination and the cooperation of all stakeholders."

Ecotourism projects to be highlighted

Another Puerto Rico tourism initiative to be featured during STC-8 is the new ecotourism law, which is being supplemented by a guide, to be completed by year’s end, Gaya said. An ecotourism projects incentives program, similar to the existing Puerto Rico Industrial, Tourism, Educational, Medical & Environmental Control Facilities Financing Authority bonds, will also be highlighted during the event as well as the three-year-old Humacao Ecotourism Natural Reserve, a government initiative started with a $4 million grant, Gaya noted. PRTC will also spotlight the Coamo thermal baths.

Tobago, with 116 square miles, is the smaller partner of Trinidad, which has 1,980 square miles. Trinidad has a population of 1,041,585 and a diversified economy rich in oil and gas. Tobago only has 55,000 inhabitants, and its main economic activity is tourism. The republic’s gross domestic product (GDP) is estimated at $10.5 billion, for an annual per capita income of $9,500. Due to its energy independence, Trinidad has more exports ($4.9 billion) than imports ($3.9 billion).

Tourism accounts for less than 5% of the nation’s GDP. In 2004, the two islands registered a total of 503,376 air arrivals, Trinidad had 441,242 and Tobago 62,134. Trinidad has 2,528 hotel rooms, while Tobago has 3,415. The occupancy in the Trinidad hotels consists largely of business and government travelers and visiting Trinidadians. In comparison, Tobago is a tourist magnet, mainly from Europe. Tourist spending is estimated at $2,520 per person, with an average stay of seven nights.

Tobago Tourism Secretary Neil Wilson refers to the island as the industry’s "new kid on the block." "Our tourism is booming, with demand almost surpassing supply. We have full employment and are very pleased and proud," he said. The island’s leaders and their constituents are very aware of tourism’s fragile nature. "Sustainable tourism through diversity is one of our major challenges," said Wilson, adding, "Nothing is more important than the preservation and integrity of our environment, and I pledge never to compromise it. Green, clean, and serene are the three words that guide us." Tobago’s inhabitants call their island "The Capitol of Paradise."

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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