Wednesday, July 23, 2014

By Mark J. Spalding, President, The Ocean Foundation

The CTO/CREST 3rd Symposium for Innovators in Coastal Tourism I wrote about several days ago ended with a series of impassioned speeches that began with Grenada’s Ambassador to the US, Angus Friday, asking all of the delegates in attendance to redouble their efforts to share knowledge about sustainable tourism practices and opportunities, implement those practices, and expand the scope of the practices already undertaken.  The delegates in the room were offered the opportunity to share their own summary thoughts about the incredible breadth of knowledge and experience we had heard during the plenaries and workshops, which drew speakers from the conservation, hotel, cruise line and other communities.

Ambassador Friday himself urged everyone to not ignore the growth of agriculture as a necessary component of tourism—locally sourced food should be a priority of every sustainable operation, he said.  We need a plan that links travel and tourism sustainability to its economic incentives, avoid drawing down our natural capital, ensure we preserve natural beauty aesthetics, and provide a social benefit to our communities.  He promised that Grenada would prove it deserved to host this meeting by being leaders in this effort.

Jake Kheel, Environmental Director of the Puntacana Resort & Club, said that he had learned about new options that could be explored to improve the resort’s already mindful practices and planned to do so.  Gail Henry of the Caribbean Tourism Organization added her commitment to helping Grenada lead the way in thinking about growing tourism in a way that enhanced, rather than harmed, the natural resources on which the new “Pure Grenada: Spice of the Caribbean” campaign so rightfully depends.

As comments came in from the floor, one young woman spoke movingly about the replanting of mangroves that she had been working on.  She emphasized the science and groundwork that had been laid for each of Grenada’s mangrove replanting projects, and finished simply, “No matter how well we replant, it would be better if we did not cut them down at all.  Prevention is much better than inventing a cure.”  Everyone clapped.

A young man from Canada reminded us that, as conferees, we needed to model good behavior, avoid single use plastics, and support those who were making an effort to run greener operations.  In particular, he pointed to the use of plastic water bottles—even if the water is bottled in Grenada.

The Grenada Board of Tourism’s Christine Noel-Horsford had the final voice from the floor.  She said:  “Here are the simple points that I took away from the conference which I believe would make a difference in my life going forward:

1.  Going Green is urgent
2.  When communicating your GREEN STORY, keep it simple
3.  Remember that you cannot go GREEN alone
4.  But, the only GREEN strategy that works is when you do it yourself
5.  You have to lead the Charge
6.  Don’t SELL Me the Green Story, involve me
7. Sustainability is a JOURNEY

Here at The Ocean Foundation, we strive to involve people every day, both directly and indirectly, in steering the human relationship with the oceans toward a more sustainable future.  It is indeed a journey, and one I hope you will join, as our community moves forward into its second decade.