Conversations on the tourism’s negative affect on the area peppered the three days of presentations. However, the members of the conference were not there to complain about problems; they were there to create solutions.
The benefits of Marine Protected Areas to defend local sea life were addressed, corporate assistance was proposed from Jet Blue, and innovative methods for energy conservation were shared. Ewald Biemans of Aruba’s Bucati & Tara Beach resorts explained how one of his hotels utilizes cold seawater circulation to provide cool air for his customers.
Other problems were explained such as what cruise ships do to a local community. Aside from its exorbitant carbon footprint, the boats act as a seagoing resort preventing money from reaching the hands of the hotel and restaurant owners on the islands. If one island proposes a boycott to the cruise ship for these reasons, they just go to another island.
Part of the reason for this conference was to foster relationships between players in the Caribbean tourism industry as well. It was suggested that if all of the islands worked together against the cruise ship companies then they could have the potential to change the shape of tourism in this part of the world.
Another panel on sustainable food sources led to one of the most quotable moments of the conference. In a discussion of the necessities of using local food, Loreto Duffy-Mayers of the Caribbean Hotel Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Action project addressed something that seemed to go unnoticed by all other members at the conference up to that point.
“If we’re trying to be sustainable and use local goods, then why are we serving wine every night at these functions,” said Duffy-Mayers. “The Caribbean is known for it’s rum.”
While the statement drew a laugh, it also opened the members eyes on how easy it is to depend on foreign imports shipped in an unsustainable manner.
By the last day, it was made clear; the dangers of inaction could be catastrophic to the region. But the members who attended the conference left equipped with a variety of new solutions. The relationships built between islands and experts may help lead to a more sustainable Caribbean.