Some of the world's most popular and appealing travel destinations are in jeopardy, vulnerable to issues like climate change and unsustainable development.
Several leading organizations have joined forces to address these challenges head-on by helping tourism destinations in the Caribbean and Latin America to safeguard their natural and cultural assets, while enhancing communities and securing a vibrant regional economy.
The new Sustainable Destinations Alliance for the Americas (SDAA), which was launched today at an event in Barbados, marks the largest-scale effort to date through which public and private entities have united to focus on destination sustainability in the Americas. The Alliance includes the Organization of American States Caribbean Tourism Organization, global NGO Sustainable Travel International, leading cruise vacation company Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., and the United States Government through the United States Permanent Mission to the Organization of American States.
The SDAA will offer seven destinations in the Caribbean and Latin America significant support with their sustainability efforts. Each participating destination will begin with an evaluation of destination management practices designed to recognize areas of strength, and to identify areas in which they have the greatest opportunity to improve. Destinations will also have access to an online sustainable tourism course called Sustainable Tourism Professionals, designed to facilitate implementation of sustainability practices, and a destination sustainability monitoring framework called SMART, which will support the tracking of key performance metrics. Results and lessons learned will be disseminated regionally to leverage market advantage, and to foster greater understanding among destination decision-makers.
Sustainable Travel International, the Alliance's non-profit implementation partner, will conduct assessments in each destination using its Rapid Destination Diagnostic tool, which provides a snapshot of the destination's sustainability status, a summary of destination management priorities, and valuable input to inform and shape destination level policies.
The aim is for these seven destinations to follow the successful implementation of similar pilot programs in Cozumel, Mexico and Roatan, Honduras. Today's announcement is also the first step in an active effort to expand the SDAA to include more than 30 destinations in the next few years, which would make it the largest initiative of its kind in the world.
The SDAA initiative, which will become a critical component of the OAS Sustainable Tourism Program over the next two years, underscores the close inter-agency cooperation among the OAS and its regional partners, the strong involvement of key stakeholders, and collaboration with the private sector.
In-depth work in the first 7 destinations is being financed through resources provided by the United States Permanent Mission to the Organization of American States and by Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. through its Ocean Fund. Four destinations will be funded by the US Mission, and three will receive funding from Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.
The OAS Executive Secretary for Integral Development Sherry Tross says, "With the focus of this initiative on destination sustainability and management, we are strengthening our ability to assess issues that are critical to the competitiveness and destination product and to make targeted recommendations that, among other things, will help to ensure the maximization of benefits for local communities. For the OAS, it is important that these issues remain as an integral part of the sustainable tourism policy dialogue so we can respond effectively to the needs of our member states."
"It's critical that companies look at ways they can have a positive impact in the places where they do business," said Rich Pruitt, Vice President, Safety and Environmental Stewardship, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. "We want to see the uniquely beautiful destinations of the Caribbean and Latin American region thrive, and are committed to collaborating with the organizations that can work to move these destinations toward greater sustainability." Pruitt also announced its Destinations for Tomorrow toolkit today - an online resource for destinations that wish to complete sustainability self-assessments, learn how to prioritize sustainability practices, and become part of a community of organizations and destinations with similar goals.
Pruitt then invited all destinations in the region to visit www.destinationsfortomorrow.com in order to be among the 75 cruise destinations that Royal Caribbean will sponsor to complete a destination self-assessment.
United States Ambassador Larry L. Palmer remarked, "We are proud to facilitate the strengthening of the tourism industry in the Caribbean and Central America to ensure that our region meets the highest sustainable tourism standards." He highlighted that "there's tremendous opportunity to keep tourism development on a steady path that emphasizes sustainability, authenticity, social equity and poverty reduction, ecological protection, stakeholder engagement, while keeping pace with the development of other key sectors, such as agriculture."
"We are thrilled to expand the work we have done in pilot destinations through the SDAA initiative," shared Seleni Matus, Vice President of Latin America and the Caribbean at Sustainable Travel International. "We believe that destination stewardship is a shared responsibility, and are delighted to bring together these organizations across sectors in a way that will maximize regional impact."
CTO Secretary General Hugh Riley acknowledged that multi-sectorial partnerships are the ideal way to pursue sustainable tourism. "By bringing to bear the views of the public, private, and NGO sectors, this initiative supports our mandate to establish best practices in sustainable tourism."