Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer
BAHAMIAN PRIME Minister Perry Christie has urged stakeholders to ensure the region's beaches, coast, associated reef system, and marine life are not destroyed or unduly compromised in the process of developing tourism infrastructure.
Addressing the opening ceremony of Caribbean Travel Marketplace last Sunday night at the Atlantis, Paradise Island, Bahamas, Christie said the hotel and resort developers have what can best be described as an insatiable appetite for the prime beachfront and coastal areas of the Caribbean destinations, which they may operate or aspire to operate.
"While this appetite is perfectly understandable in the competitive market for tourists who are looking to be right on the beach and right next to the water, this paradigm may not always be compatible with coastal and beach-conservation objectives of national governments," he noted.
Christie added that, within the region, closely allied to this problem is the question of public access to the beaches and coastal areas for recreation, swimming, fishing and relaxation.
Acknowledging that this was a very complex subject, which would require finding ways and means to strike the right balance, he said this was very necessary owing to the fact that continued tourism expansion was what the region depended on for economic sustenance.
Christie challenged stakeholders nationally and regionally to ensure the necessary dialogue takes place on how to continue to grow tourism without destroying or degrading the fragile and delicately balanced environment.
"We are going to be increasingly challenged to harmonise national and regional objectives for environmental conservation and protection with the commercial objectives of private-sector hotel and resort developers," Christie admitted.
He also pointed out that the region's natural features provided it with unequalled opportunities to develop ecotourism to its fullest.
"We must be careful to protect our environment and stay engaged in national, regional and international measures to curtail climate change and coastal erosion," he warned.
As the Caribbean moves to fully embrace ecotourism, Christie said it was important to give credence to the recent UN General Assembly landmark resolution recognising ecotourism as a tool for the promotion of sustainable development, providing "a positive impact on income generation, job creation and education, and thus, on the fight against poverty and hunger."