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Sustainable development of Caribbean’s tourism industry

The research topic of this paper is Sustainable Development of the Caribbean’s tourism industry through proper environmental planning. The research question is the Caribbean’s vulnerability and its ability to survive within a global landscape is an ongoing concern. Research was conducted via the internet and articles. Information was gathered covering the various related topics of this paper.

This paper will discuss three main objectives. The first objective will deal with the benefits of the Caribbean’s tourism industry making mention to two Caribbean islands. In addition to this it will look at the disadvantages and advantages of the tourism industry in the Caribbean. Next it will look at environmental planning and its impact on tourism. This area will make mention to role of the environment in the tourism industry and ways of preserving and conserving our environment. It will also make mention of the adverse effects of tourism on the environment and actions that have been taken to reduce these negative impacts.

Finally, the opportunities for the Caribbean as it relates to tourism with their existing resources and make recommendations that may bring the Caribbean tourism industry to a wider world. The paper is intended to give an overview of the Caribbean’s tourism industry and how the Caribbean can reach sustainable development by overcoming all negative environmental problems.

The Caribbean on a whole has suffered economically, socially and environmentally. Governments seek to improve the quality of life through the existing industries but how can we reach to a point where we have sustainable development in our islands. The aim is to build this through tourism and the environmental planning.

Sustainable development can be defined as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Another key term would be that of environmental planning (International Institute for Sustainable Development, 2009).

Environmental planning as defined as any planning activity that with an aim to preserve or enhance environmental resources. It looks at how society at present can affect the natural environment both current and in the future. Considerations include, water, land, pollution and other natural resources (The Environmental Education Directory, 2004).

The tourism industry has been the driving force for most islands in the Caribbean for the past twenty years. In Grenada for instance, Agriculture was once the driving industry but due to natural disasters and damaging of the Agricultural properties, tourism has taken over as the major driving force in the country but how beneficial is this industry really. Tourism has contributed towards the economy, social lifestyle and ecology and the sustainability of each in the Caribbean (World Trade and Tourism Organization and International Hotel and Restaurant Association (WTTC and IHRA, 1999).

Tourism has proven to be a good source of income for many islands. The tourism industry is divided into five different sectors namely accommodation, food and beverage services, recreation and entertainment, transportation and travel services all of which plays an important role in the industry. Others include telecommunications, and manufacturing. With this in mind, tourism is a large provider for jobs for the people of the Caribbean. It has been forecasted that in 2010 Tourism will contribute approximately 11.7% of the world’s GDP and employment for approximately 255 million world-wide (WTTC, 1999)

The tourism industry has also fostered improved infrastructure in many Caribbean islands which in turn attracts more foreign investments for foreigners. The need for improved infrastructure is to facilitate tourists. The quality of roads and buildings are very important. In islands where both are not at high standards this may pose problems to the many sectors within industry such as accommodation, that is, the hotels and resorts. In addition, there are many tourists that travel to the Caribbean by cruise ships so it is important the ports can accommodate the large numbers at any given time with efficient service as well (Ellen, Karen & WTTC, 2009).

It has played a significant role in the Caribbean’s up bring. For instance, look at Jamaica, Bahamas, and Trinidad. Tourism in Trinidad accounts for 10.6% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product that is, 14,116.9 Trinidadian dollars and 14.7% of total employment that is, 88,000 jobs. These figures are also expected to rise by 2019 (WTTC, 2009). The same applies for Jamaica where tourism contributes 45% of Jamaica’s foreign income and employs 300,000 Jamaicans directly and indirectly (Jamaica Economy, 2008).

As it relates to Bahamas, one of their biggest drivers is Tourism. In Bahamas, tourism and other tourism driven sectors account for 60% of their GDP. It employs approximately 50% of their population (The Bahamas, 2009). Overall in 2008, Tourism has accounted for 14.8% of the Caribbean’s Gross Domestic product and 12.9% of employment (Nurse, Keith, 2008).

Whilst accommodating tourism and its benefits to the Caribbean, the impact of the tourism industry on the environment but be taken into consideration. In other words, how are the related on what impacts do they have on each other.

For most tourist destinations, what attracts tourists to the country is the quality of the environment, the many reasons existing in the Caribbean. For this reason, the environment’s sustainability and preservation is vitality important to the industry. The environment usually provides attractions and sight-seeing for tourists. The resources available in a country both natural and man-made are essential to industry. Combined with infrastructural developments such as roads and airports, the hotels, resorts and marinas, the environment plays a very significant role in the tourism industry. A country lacking proper tourism facilities may negatively impact the economic growth in this industry. In eco-friendly Caribbean islands the marina which is home to many sea creatures must be preserved (WTTC, 1999).

Water as a natural resource is highly demanded by the tourism industry in aid of facilitating and accommodating tourists. Tourists rely on water for consumption and personal use. Restaurants use water for cooking and many resorts have pools as an enhancing feature for the tourists. Land area is utilized as well for building hotels and restaurants.

Despite the fact that tourism seems to rely heavily on the environment, there are many adverse impacts that tourism has on the environment. Tourism attracts many tourists to the islands of the Caribbean and in effect leads to the overuse of the resources of the environment. For instance, in order to facilitate tourists, accommodation must be provided. One negative impacts of this is deforestation where forests are cut or burnt down to facilitate the building of the hotels and resorts. Another negative impact would be that of increased pollution. Tourist travel around the island sight-seeing increases the chance of land, air, sea and noise pollution. Often times waste is improperly disposed off harming the surroundings and in many cases marine life. In addition to this the marine life as it relates to the coral reefs have been greatly affected by tourism. They are often overused and damaged as a result (WTTC, 1999)

Another impact is the increase in diseases. Many of the tourists come to the islands with air-borne diseases from their environment posing a threat to the Caribbean (Anonymous, 2009).

In many instances some natural resources are depleted. This occurs when there is an increase in the consumption of any particular resource that is scarce. Water is one of the many resources that when overused results in shortages and possible degradation. This can also increase water pollution since more and more water is able to settle allowing for static water and possible growth of bacteria contaminating the environment.

In order to reduce the negative impacts that tourism is having on the environment considerable planning must take place. The hotel industry has implemented certifications in their hotels. One main certification on stream is the “Green Globe 21” certification. With this certification hotels are required annually to conduct their business practices in such a way that the environment is being protected. They aim at reducing the amount of water consumed through recycling and conserving energy.

Introducing awareness programs about the endangered environment is very important. Many persons are unaware of the consequences of their actions and educating the public on these will give them that drive to protecting the environment. One example of how the public can help protect the environment is through car pooling where persons group up and travel using one vehicle as opposed to the three individuals vehicles. This would help reduce the amount of gas emission into the atmosphere (Sapayan, Maria, 2009).

In 2005, Antigua & Barbuda, the Sustainable Island Resource Management Mechanism (SIRMM) project was introduced to reduce the problems they experience with over exploitation of the natural environment. It covers are land degradation, poor water quality, loss of biodiversity and many other factors and areas affected (SIRMM Project, n. d.).

In many islands, actions have been taken against over harvesting of the marine life. Fishermen often times remove to many of the marine animals in their quest to make a profit, hampering further growth for the future. This has been a threat to the ecosystem of the Caribbean. Governments have implemented close seasons for hunting and fishing in many of the islands. There is need for improvement in this area since many fishermen use this as their source of income by providing fish for hotels and restaurants (Anonymous, 2006).

Ecotourism is another means of eliminating the negative impacts of tourism on the environment. Ecotourism is a tourism aimed at preserving the environment. Any island that focuses on ecotourism as their income earners places more emphasis in the preservation of their environment (Mader. C, Pemberton. K & Carlisle. A, 2005).

The Caribbean aims at expanding and finding a place in the Caribbean and there are many opportunities in doing so. One major opportunity is diversity. The Caribbean for many years has focused on their beautiful beaches, their warm weather, and their white sand. In other words, the three S’s, Sun, sand and sea, the main resources available on the islands. Diversity will not only bring a new look to the experience for tourists but it will boost the Caribbean economy. Many larger tourist destinations have diversified their products and services. They have utilized many of their resources and stepped away from traditional. In the Caribbean stepping away from the traditional is an opportunity for further growth in the tourism industry (Hoschtialek. R, Nov 24 2009).

In Grenada for instance, we advertise our white sandy beaches with clear blue waters but what about our ecosystem. How often is our coral reefs made mention of in the Caribbean. For the past decade or so there have been improvements in the products and services which have proven to cause an increase in the number of visitors to the islands (Hoschtialek. R, Nov 24, 2009).

There are however many more areas to tap into for instance in Grenada, Levera beach is the Caribbean’s third largest turtle nesting area. The tourism industry can develop more into these areas as added attraction for tourists visiting the islands. Also in Grenada, an underwater sculpture museum was built being the first of its kind in the Caribbean. This opens up to diversity. Tourism can use their many resources to introduce innovate ways of entertaining their visitors (Hoschtialek. R, Nov. 24, 2009).

Another opportunity lies in Montserrat where the island’s volcanic background can be used as a sight-seeing attraction where tourists get the opportunity to see the volcanoes and the remnants of it (Hoschtialek. R, Nov. 24, 2009).

Dominica is one island that have tapped into the opportunity of making their environment more eco-friendly. They have invested much into eco-tourism more so than any other island. They place emphasis on enhancing the marine life and use that to their benefit for tourists visiting the island. This is an opportunity present for all islands and is sure to increase the number of investors in the islands since more and more persons are becoming environmentally friendly. This can therefore boost our economy with the foreign direct investments that these may offer (Caribbean Land and Property, 2008).

From this report, when looking at the vulnerability, sustainability and the Caribbean’s place in the World it is evident that through the tourism industry and environmental planning that the Caribbean can engage into a wider world. The tourism industry has proven to pose both advantages and disadvantages to the Caribbean. In many cases it has been beneficial to the Caribbean by creating job opportunities and boosting the economy.

However, with it relying so much on the environment, it has had some negative impacts on the environment. With aims of improving the ways of preserving and conserving the environment, the tourism industry can invest in actions that would bring the environment to a more stabilized one. Environmental planning will decrease the risk associated with tourism because all of the negative impacts are addressed before hand.

With this combination of the tourism industry in the Caribbean and proper planning in preserving the environment the Caribbean can have sustainable development and bring a brighter and safer future for individuals all through the cooperation of those now. The Caribbean will grow into a more open place and reap from the benefits while seeking more opportunities for further development.

References

  • Anonymous, (2006). Environmental Planning: Educational and Career Outlook. Retrieved on November 24th, 2009 from http://www.enviroeducation.com/majors-programs/env-plan.html
  • Anonymous, (2006). SIRMM Project, A step forward in conserving the environment. Retrieved on November 24th, 2009 from http://www.environmentdivision.info/?q=node/168
  • Anonymous, (n.d). Caribbean Ecotourism Yields Economic Rewards for Investors, Real estate for ecotourism Supports Caribbean Sustainable Development. Retrieved on November 22nd, 2009 from http://www.prlog.org/10127079-caribbean-ecotourism-yields-economic-rewards-for-investors.html
  • Babu, N. (n.d.). Environmental planning as a tool for environmental protection – the need and the possibilities. Retrieved on November 23rd, 2009 from (http://www.gisdevelopment.net/application/environment/overview/envo0002pf.htm
  • Charles. M, Pemberton. K, Carlisle. A, (2005). Ecotourism as a Means of Conserving Wetlands. Retrieved on November 22nd, 2009 from http://www.allbusiness.com/finance/1166294-1.html
  • CTV Canada am. (2009). Loren reveals why you should reconsider the Caribbean. Retrieved on November 24th, 2009 from http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20091123/loren_blog_091123/20091123/
  • Ellen. K (n.d.). EHow, What are the Benefits of tourism in the Caribbean? Retrieved on November 20th, 2009 from http://www.ehow.com/about_5234349_benefits-tourism-caribbean.html
  • FAS Productions, (2008). Jamaica Economy. Retrieved on November 23rd, 2009 from http://www.all-jamaica.com/jamaica/economy.html
  • Hoschtialek. R, personal communication, Nov. 24th, 2009
  • Nurse, K, (2008). International Centre for Trade and sustainable development, Climate change, tourism and services in small islands. Retrieved on November 19th, 2009 from http://ictsd.org/i/news/bioresreview/34826/
  • Sapayan, M. (n.d.). Ezine articles, Ways in Preserving the Environment. Retrieved on November 22nd, 2009 from http://ezinearticles.com/?Ways-in-Preserving-the-Environment&id=2463133
  • Schultz. E, (2009). Caribbean Construction Digest, Preserving our environment. Retrieved on November 23rd, 2009 from http://www.cariconstruction.com/?p=174
  • U.S Department of State, (2009). Background Note : Bahamas. Retrieved on November 23rd, 2009 from http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/1857.htm
  • World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED), Our common future. Retrieved on November 23rd, 2009 from http://www.iisd.org/sd/
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