Thursday, June 5, 2008

Caribbean youth well represented at regional conference

The youth played an integral role in the discussions on sustainable tourism at the 12th full edition of the Caribbean Media Exchange on Sustainable Tourism (CMEx) held in San Juan, Puerto Rico, recently.

Kenrick Quashie, 22-year-old youth delegate from St Vincent and the Grenadines, said the conference had inspired him to do more for tourism in the region.

"It has motivated me more to embrace the tourism industry and the greatest thing I have left [the conference] with is that more needs to be done in the Caribbean for tourism in order for the industry to survive," he said.

At the forefront of the debate, was the need for more youth involvement in regional tourism policies and a greater effort by Caribbean youth to get involved in the process of transformation in the tourism sector.

Bevan Springer, executive producer of CMEx (produced by Counterpart International), said youth involvement in tourism dialogue was seen as a key area for regional development because of the important roles the youth play in society today.

Development dialogue

"A few years ago, we decided to increase the number of young people attending CMEx because they represent the Caribbean's future and ought to be a part of the sustainable tourism development dialogue and they are an integral part of the media landscape, given the increasing number of youth media outlets and youth sections in the region."

Under 20 youth delegates from different countries across the region and North America were represented at the five-day conference that saw young persons, media workers, government officials and representatives of the tourism industry discussing important sustainable tourism issues.

Bahamian youth delegate, Adrian Wildgoose, said the conference had a significant impact on his perception of tourism in the region.

"CMEx gave me a new perspective on tourism in general because I used to see it as countries marketing themselves, but now I see it as a lifestyle. It impacted me in a lot of ways, for example, just to get a chance to link up with youth from around the Caribbean in a setting like that connected me more in the sense that I feel obligated now to do something to, in some way, get the common man to want that experience,"he said.

In relation to youth involvement in tourism initiatives in the region, Counterpart's president, Lelei LeLaulu, had this to say:

"The young people of the Caribbean will be the stewards of the biggest industry in the region - tourism - in just a few years and we want to ensure they have a say in their own future."

Regional governments should take us seriously, say Caribbean youth

Youth share their views on Caribbean tourism at 12th CMEx Conference

Governments should take youth recommendations on sustainable tourism seriously and more youth need to get involved in initiatives that will ensure greater tourism benefits for the region, says the youth delegation at the 12th Caribbean Media Exchange on Sustainable Tourism (CMEx) in San Juan, Puerto Rico recently.
The youth articulated that young people will form the future policymakers within the region, therefore it is important that the seeds are planted now, that will ensure that the Caribbean is in safe hands when the time comes for young persons to take charge.
Youth delegate Kenrick Quashie from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, argued that even though youth have been given different avenues through which to express their views, their ideas are still being ignored.
“Over the years, through CMEx and the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) Youth Congress, youth have been given the opportunity to share their perspectives and make recommendations on tourism, sustainability and other pressing issues. [However], youth continue to be disgruntled because most recommendations are placed in the “X” file and stored at the back of filing cabinets,” he said.
“We as the youth have realised that whether or not older people are committed to sustainable development for tourism, we need to do whatever we can now; we are not waiting anymore, we have decided to do it ourselves.”
Since the region depends heavily on tourism revenue, the young persons charged Caribbean government officials and Non-Governmental Organizations to make a greater effort to ensure that the youth within the region are made aware of the importance of ensuring that Caribbean nationals tap into the opportunities to be gained from tourism.
Youth delegate and Junior Minister of Tourism for Barbados (2004-2005), Javon Griffith, said, “they (youth) need to understand that without the contribution of tourism to the Caribbean, the region would be rendered economically non-viable. Furthermore, they need to understand that this is why it is argued so often that the Caribbean is the most tourism dependent region in the world.”
The youth delegates are urging regional governments to include the youth in policy formations for sustainable tourism in the Caribbean.
Other areas of discussion included making a greater effort to include youth within the diaspora in regional tourism initiatives, since because of their status as cultural ambassadors; they also play an important role in ensuring sustainability within the tourism sector.
Based on the theme “Embracing the Diaspora, Connecting Communities”, CMEx was aimed at promoting dialogue between media workers, young persons, government officials and those in the tourism industry, in an effort to improve media coverage of regional tourism sustainability issues.
The five-day conference saw approximately 20 youth delegates along with movers and shakers from different countries across the region and North America, sharing their views on tourism and their roles within the process of transformation in the Caribbean.
Presentations by different youth delegates highlighted the tourism projects that they have undertaken in their respective countries and how they intend to ensure that the youth play a more active role in sustainable tourism.
Countries that were represented at the conference include: Jamaica, Barbados, St. Lucia, Antigua, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Canada, the United States, the Bahamas, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Hawaii, Nicaragua, Trinidad and host country Puerto Rico.