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By John Emmanuel

September 14, 1998 - St. Lucia Friday began the third leg in a series of national consultations taking place throughout the OECS, on a Draft Strategy for Sustainable Tourism in the region.  The exercise comes in response to a mandate from OECS members countries to the Natural Resources Management Unit (NRMU), to further discussion on a strategy developed by a team of consultants, working in collaboration with representatives of the member states.

Head of the NRMU Dr.Vasantha Chase, says the strategy is made up of two broad elements, namely devising environmentally sound support constructs for the tourist industry, and the formulation of guidelines and concrete recommendations in order to introduce the environmental dimensions into tourism. However, Dr Chase indicated that the role of the NRMU  is not to be involved in the tourism industry and sector per say, but to ensure that the environmental issues and imperatives are actually included in the design, planning and management of the tourism sector.

The OECS Strategy for Sustainable Tourism was endorsed by the OECS Authority back in 1996, with funding for the national consultations being secured from the Organization of American States in 1997.

Tourism Minister the Hon. Phillip Pierre, says the formulation of a sustainable tourism policy will serve to bridge the gap, in benefits to residents of remote rural communities and those in areas where the traditional plant in located.

"In the past few local communities have enjoyed significant benefits from nature tourism since they have neither the knowledge, experience of capital for investment and are unable to compete with commercial operations. The nature heritage tourism project seeks to fulfill that mission and visions for the ordinary people of St. Lucia" Pierre said.

He told major stakeholders gathered at the Caribbees Hotel, that "economic or sustainable development for tourism projects in rural communities should have three main priorities, increasing and capturing more economic benefits, contributing more to local economic development and mitigating environmental impacts."

To date consultations have taken place in Antigua and Grenada. Discussions with stakeholders in St. Kitts/Nevis and Dominica are to follow later in the month.   Towards the end of the series of consultations, the OECS is hoping to be provided with recommendations, as to how best to move forward with the Draft Sustainable Tourism Strategy.


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