Ecotourism is one of the buzzwords of the '90s whose definition has
more interpretations than agents have heartburn.
To one hotelier, it can mean changing the guest towels and bed
linens every other day instead of daily to conserve wash water. To
another, it can translate into a complex initiative based on
recycling and reusing product as well as rethinking policy.
In any event, environmental conservation is as much a part of
doing business in the lodging industry these days as offering hotel
guests smoke-free rooms and low-fat menus.
It is no wonder that the Caribbean region is proactive on this
issue, having borne witness to islands that have sacrificed natural
resources, water quality and marine life for sprawling resorts and
Two years ago, the Caribbean Tourism Organization put together
the region's first Sustainable Tourism Development Conference on
Dominica. The conference was held on Trinidad in 1998.
This year the venue was Suriname, on the northeast coast of
South America but a CTO member nonetheless. Suriname's independence
from Holland came in 1975, but a military coup stalled progress
through most of the '80s, and the island's officials are frank to
admit that they are newcomers to tourism policy and strategy.
Things are on track there now, with elections every four years,
and we are pleased that the CTO had enough confidence in Suriname's
potential as a destination and ecotourism partner to put it in the
ecological spotlight. That Suriname had the wisdom to seek the
counsel of its peers and of environmental experts is to its
Some better-known destinations in the region would do well to
emulate this evolving country's approach to addressing troubling