A regional workshop on sustainable destination management and marketing has ended in Saint Lucia with a commitment by participants to improve the tourism product and stakeholder engagement.
The 27-31 March workshop, organised by the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and the United Nations agency, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), brought together 26 stakeholders in the tourism industry from 12 CTO member countries to explore ways to make their destinations and the region more globally competitive.
“The workshop is a very pertinent one. It gives the stakeholders an opportunity to look at sustainable tourism, which is very important to our territories and Caribbean countries,” said Percival Hanley, the general manager of Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park Society in St. Kitts.
“Tourism is one of the major industries for our countries and very meaningful to our economies, and is one of the growing industries that will significantly affect our area, not just now but well into the future,” he added.
During the five-day seminar, participants shared best practices, including the successes of destinations outside the Caribbean.
It was an eye opener for Elecia Myers, the senior director for strategic planning and evaluation at the Jamaica ministry of tourism, who said she would now look at sustainable destination management and marketing in a more strategic light.
“I’ve been looking at how I can institute systems at the national level to ensure there is follow through within our agencies, and within our stakeholder practitioners – hoteliers, attractions, transport service providers – how to infuse strategic planning in a more meaning and measurable way so we can track it over time,” she said.
For the Turks and Caicos Islands the sessions were quite important because the country is at the crossroads as to where it wants to go in terms of tourism development, said Brian Been, the senior product development officer at the Turks and Caicos Tourist Board.
“Whenever we talk about sustainability, we tend to lean on the environmental side, and not realise there must be a balanced approach,” he said.
The workshop came at a time when destinations are paying greater attention to product development, and social media is changing the way tourism marketing is done.
Among the key areas explored were innovation in marketing, destination competitiveness, developing sustainable tourism experiences and successful models in destination management and marketing. The participants were also able to take the learning process out of this room and into the real world by going on study tours to Fond Latisab Creole Park, Lushan Country Life and Sulphur Springs and Volcano for real-life experiences.
“Sustainable destination management and marketing is an area that most of the countries in our region are looking at seriously – how to we effectively market and manage our destinations so we can be globally competitive,” said Bonita Morgan, the CTO’s director of resource mobilization and development.
The executive training workshop was organized by the CTO and the UNWTO through its Themis Foundation, and was held in collaboration with the Saint Lucia ministry of tourism and the board of tourism.
“This UNWTO/CTO workshop main objective was to constitute a participative platform where we all could share experiences and knowledge as well as instruments that can be applied back in participants’ countries, institutions, businesses and destinations. And I believe we have achieved that objective by bridging theory and practice in a very participative workshop,” said Alba Fernández Alonso, the course coordinator at the Themis Foundation, the entity responsible for implementing the UNWTO’s education and training program.