Big People and Big Words: Sustainable Tourism Development

Sustainable is a “big word”  people throw around when they want to show that they have some weight or they like to play they “BIG” and play they know “big words”. Indeed this is a “big” word because it has a lot of weight to it. It carries so much responsibility by all the stakeholders involved in tourism in small island developing states such as Trinidad and Tobago. It warrants them to guard their initiatives and development of them with this word in mind.  Sustainable tourism development can be defined as “Tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities,” (“Sustainable Tourism .:. Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform”). Destination gate keepers who are ill informed or unconcerned about this topic can lead to a destination’s demise. This type of attitude can also act as a catalyst to propel and ensure there is a continuum for the end result of an obliterated destination where there is literally zero restoration or rejuvenation in the tourism life cycle.

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The United Nations World Tourism Organization has identified twelve principles that guide the sustainable tourism development (GRID-Arendal). They can be surmised as

  1. Economic Viability
  2. Local Prosperity
  3. Employment Quality
  4. Social Equity
  5. Visitor Fulfillment
  6. Local Control
  7. Community Wellbeing
  8. Cultural Richness
  9. Physical Integrity
  10. Biological Diversity
  11. Resource Efficiency
  12. Environmental Purity

Some of you may know in depth what these terms mean and some of you have taken them for granted whilst some of you have twisted it for your own meaning. Hence the ease at which some people can throw around the words sustainable development. I will not divulge further as you can do yourself the favour and read more about this in your own research efforts.

My research has taken me to use initiatives to develop and promote creative tourism. This type of tourism can be defined as, “Tourism which offers visitors the opportunity to develop their creative potential through active participation in courses and learning experiences, which are characteristic of the holiday destination where they are taken,” Crispin Raymond and Greg Richards, 2000 (Network).  My first initiatives in creative tourism  focus on fashion tours. I have chosen this path because I am passionate about making a difference in my country by effecting change through a channel such as this one.  Moreover as a  sole proprietor in this niche I believe I can set the standards and revise them as often as it needs to be. I think stakeholders can pause for a cause that concerns all of us. There is a greater urgency now at a time when our very minds, skills, abilities, resources and networks can aid the diversification that the country so desperately needs.

fashion-exercise

There are many opportunities for sustainable action in each tourism sector. When I first did my plans for these fashion tours some persons who were guiding me believed that  tours should be standardized and commercialized. My background in tourism academia, my travel experiences as a fashion and shopping tourist and my desire to be unique skewed my perspective. I have held my ground and I will continue to do so.  There is a new tourist who wants more. This tourist falls in my target market. My tours are more than just packages.  Albeit lots of planning goes into every tour I agree to some level of standardization but not too much as this can ruin the authenticity and natural fabric of organic flows and intangible things that take place on tour.

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My groups engage in learning about creative design, culture and history specific to Trinidad. The entire process is participatory and fun! The designers are screened and selected based on originality, production of their materials and their contributions to society. I employ external stakeholders who I rotate so that I collaborate with different persons from designers, photographers, guides, drivers, hoteliers and hosts. Of course the quality of their work and working relationships are also evaluated. Moreover, there is something called the multiplier effect which means something more to me. It means as much as I can employ locals they will spend into society and the money can trickle down due to these linkages. Most of my marketing is done digitally to reduce waste.  I map my routes carefully to reduce carbon footprint.  All my designers benefit from increased brand visibility because this venture has the people, the makers and the creators in this destination closest to its heart. I make it my business to show and tell their stories in anticipation of helping them to carry on their brand legacy.

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This initiative is twofold because as I welcome the tourists to an unlocked designer haven where they can purchase specially designed and crafted clothing even ethical pieces they take back a piece of the destination with them.  When creatives make something and the tourist purchases it they are taking away a part of that creative with them. The creative’s soul, heart, the design process, the production and the finishing touches are all gifted in that one purchase. They have an investment and a memory that can last a lifetime. Tourists establish relationships with others on tour as well as with designers. There is a huge potential for increasing brand loyalty and sales. They support a livelihood by purchasing from these designers who are mostly small businesses.

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Overall, the role of sustainable development in tourism is a big deal. Failure to take heed of the principles of sustainable tourism development can lead to infinite disadvantages. These include but are not limited to pollution and destruction of environment, limited value added products and experiences, low employment, control of wealth and income, no local consultation hence foreign decision making, leakage of expenditure, concentration of development in local travel and tourism, little to no transparency and accountability in destination over foreign exchange earnings, unstable markets, over commercialized packages, all inclusive markets which only  allow for money to stay within certain pockets of society, control of access to certain properties and attractions and solicitation of illegal activities and lifestyles (“Tourism Development: Outline of Advantages and Disadvantages”).

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Wind turbines seen as a blot on the landscape by motorists who don't notice the impact of the motorway.
Wind turbines seen as a blot on the landscape by motorists who don’t notice the impact of the motorway.

Undoubtedly, I am an advocate for positive change in my country and if I can make an effort so can you. I am committed to improving sustainable development of tourism in my destination in whichever that I can. If you are visiting Trinidad and Tobago soon or if you are a stakeholder or even a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago I am sure you can think of some way in which you can contribute. You do not need to be Mr. Big Stuff or use “BIG WORDS” to make a difference. Your action does not have to be grand and glamorous you can start with something very simple. If we all make one single step to positive change in the direction of sustainable tourism development the end result will undeniably be colossal.

 

Resources

GRID-Arendal. GRID-Arendal – activities – sustainable tourism – background. 2014. Web. 5 Jan. 2017.

Network, Creative Tourism. About the creative tourism. 2012. Web. 5 Jan. 2017.

“Sustainable tourism .:. Sustainable development knowledge platform.” 1 June 2014. Web. 5 Jan. 2017.

“Tourism development: Outline of advantages and disadvantages.” n.d. Web. 5 Jan. 2017.

 

 

 

 

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