Caribbean tourism leaders could take some lessons from the schoolchildren of the region, whose insights into the opportunities and challenges of tourism development are pretty amazing.
Not to mention their creative writing abilities, which were evident from the four elementary school winners of the Caribbean Tourism Organization's Caribbean Primary Schools Tourism Writing Competition. Awards will be presented to the winners at the CTO's Climate Smart Sustainable Tourism Forum in St. Kitts next month.
These four emerged from a field of 44 participants from 26 schools in the region.
Students were split into two age groups: 8- to 10-year-old students were asked to write about what sustainable tourism meant to them or how visitors and locals should act towards one another to promote peace. Those in the 10-to-12-year-old category were challenged to design and describe a new adventure tour or to suggest ways that the CTO could help make tourism more sustainable.
Students in both age groups had the option of writing their thoughts on tourism's contributions to the region or delivering a sales pitch to encourage tourists to experience a new adventure activity.
Ten-year-old Kassie Haley-Shai from Montserrat jumped on the adventure topic, opening with a question: "Are you tired of the same same old, same old Caribbean Sea with little to do and no variety?"
Her essay invited visitors to a tour of "old Plymouth on a wild volcanic adventure mastermind to see our Soufriere Hills Volcano ... a humbling reminder of how awesome Mother Nature's power can be" -- a reference to Montserrat's volcanic eruptions in the mid-1990s that caused the permanent evacuation of the capitol of Plymouth.
Kassie suggested that visitors meet "our smart scientists who will amuse and keep you buzzing with volcano news."
She pointed out that the volcano "has given us new land, more spectacular features and new beaches to boast" and wrapped up her pitch with the line: "Come and see that our volcano adventure is far from being normal, far from being dreary, so come to our beautiful Montserrat for some Hot! Hot! Hot! Fun.
Dominica's Ariah Kobie, in the younger age group, tackled the issue of sustainable tourism. To promote sustainability and protect the environment, Ariah admonished locals and tourists to put garbage in containers and keep plastics and cans away from turtles, snakes and coral reefs.
"My Dominica is very clean and green but we have to keep it this way," she wrote.
Farmers should sell their food to the hotels "and hotels should buy fish from fishermen so that our local people will make money from tourism and earn a living."
She pointed out that tourist sites at lakes and waterfalls sometimes are closed for maintenance, cleanup and planting trees.
Her summary should be read aloud at the next tourism conference.
"Sustainable tourism to me means that tourists are able to enjoy the same things that my grandparents and those before them enjoyed.
"It is the responsibility of government, bus drivers, tour guides, hotel owners and tourists to use our resources with care, keeping in mind that it should be here for future generations to enjoy."
Jheauti Craigg from St. Vincent came up with an adventure tour that included an erupting volcano, parrots in the rainforest, petroglyphs, beaches, Fort Charlotte and hikes. She dubbed it the Neapolitan package, "because I love Neapolitan ice cream."
If a tourist is not up for a hike, "we've still got daring adventures for you," Jheauti wrote. "You can revel in a massage under one of our waterfalls, but where the Neapolitan Tour is different is the helicopter ride to take in an aerial view of our mountain leading to our volcano. What better way for daredevils than to be suspended by ropes to the top of the volcano and then hike down into the crater.
If that tour is way too exciting, she offered "a normal tour with a stop at Dark View Falls.
She advised her readers to "get ready to be wowed by our naturally picturesque island."
Gabriella Lewis of Trinidad took a straightforward approach to her pitch for an adventure tour, first turning to her "trusty Oxford dictionary" for the definition of tourism, then telling her readers about Lewis Adventures, her family's tour business in Port-of- Spain established in 2005, followed by a description of her caving tour concept.
Why caving? "We chose this for many reasons," Gabriella wrote. "One reason was to find out about Amerindian history in Trinidad. Two other reasons were for exercise and discovery.
"Tourists will be given a helmet, a whistle and lighting. They will go on a one-hour tour with three tour guides at one site and with one guide at the smaller cave site. These caves have water with a depth of one and a half feet. There will be an ambulance with paramedics at each site."
Gabriella gave much attention to detail, including the promotion of the tour, which included flyers, billboards and ads on social media.
"The main customers are tourists," she wrote. "The admission fee is $100. You will have to pay $20 per picture inside the caves. We look forward to seeing you there."