On November 19, 2019 the Turks and Caicos Tourist Board hosted its inaugural Sustainable Tourism Symposium at Beaches Resort as part of its Tourism Environmental Awareness Month celebration.
The keynote speaker for the symposium was Mr. Earlston McPhee, former Director of International Relations and Economic Development in the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism. Mr. McPhee has other thirty years of experience in the tourism industry and served in various positions within The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism with responsibilities ranging from formulating planning frameworks for the development of the tourism sector to developing econometric models to forecast tourism activity and its impact on the Bahamian economy. His presentation highlighted the importance of sustainable tourism policy development, benefits of sustainable tourism as well as untapped opportunities for the Turks and Caicos Islands.
The Symposium also featured a Stakeholder Speakout panel focused on climate change and challenges in sustainable tourism for small developing countries.
The panel featured the following persons:
Mr. Don Stark – Chariman and Founder of the Turks & Caicos Reef Fund
Ms. Beverly John – Tourism and Hospitality Lecturer at the TCI Community College
Dr. Heidi Hertler – Center Director for the School for Field Studies Center for Marine Resource Studies
Mrs. Lormeka Williams – Director of the Department of Environment and Coastal Resources
Mr. Damian Wilson – Policy Lead (Environment & Education)/Media and Civil Society Liasion Manager in the Governor’s Office
Acting Director of Tourism Mary Lightbourne commented, “While Destination Turks and Caicos presents a luxury brand, currently we have observed trends towards more adventure and sustainable tourism, which is a key pillar within our strategic direction of which this symposium feeds into. Additionally, we have participated in and promoted many sustainable initiatives throughout the year. We have partnered with the TCIG on the banning of single-use plastic and styrofoam products, which form part of a global plastic-free movement to preserve the environment and the marine ecosystem. We continue to partner with the Turks and Caicos National Trust to preserve historic sites and nature reserves and currently we host a weekly Island Fish Fry cultural event to promote and preserve local cuisine, culture and producers. There is still a lot of work to be done, and we all have a role to play. We can start by getting involved in projects and programs that focus on ecological, historical, cultural and heritage as these areas are core to sustaining the Tourism Sector and will be vital for the enjoyment of future generations. The Turks and Caicos Tourist Board has recognized the importance of hosting annually symposiums such as this as a step in the right direction”.
The symposium, which was sponsored by Beaches Resort, was attended by tourism industry stakeholders including hoteliers, tour operators, policymakers and high school and community college students.
The objective of the workshop was to sensitize the local community and industry stakeholders on the importance of sustainable practices and the conservation of natural resources toward the continued success and viability of the tourism industry, which is the driving force of our economy.