With heavy emphasis placed on the longevity of heritage tourism – the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) is undertaking a Development Strategy, which articulates promoting environmental and cultural sustainability in the sub-region.
According to a latest release , the OECS Commission has received approval to move forward with an OECS Heritage Tourism project that will include establishing a Heritage Tourism Network, a Heritage Tourism Trail Design, and a website with information on these heritage tourism products.
The Heritage Tourism Project Steering Committee at its third meeting on December 6, 2022 reviewed the input from stakeholder engagements and validated the project proposal.
This project has its beginnings in March 2022, when technical assistance was given to National Trusts and similar institutions that have the responsibility for managing protected areas and the safeguarding of historic sites, to offer viable tourism products in the OECS. The initiative, which included two regional consultations, resulted in the submission of a Regional Heritage Tourism project proposal.
Input from stakeholders – including the generation and selection of ideas and opportunities – was guided by the following criteria: Individual/Collective Benefit and Rationale, Market Fit, Readiness Level, Priority Ranking, Ease of Implementation and Sustainability.
Senior Technical Specialist for Tourism at the OECS Commission, Mrs. Maria Fowell said: “Following extensive and successful stakeholder consultations this year, with the most recent being held in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, we are thrilled to receive the endorsement from the Project Steering Committee, comprising Permanent Secretaries of Tourism to move forward with a strong OECS Heritage Tourism proposal conceptualised by representatives of National Trusts and similar institutions, with input from tourism technical officers.”
The Consultation provided an opportunity for the host country, St. Vincent and the Grenadines to showcase their tourism products. The St. Vincent and the Grenadines National Trust and the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Parks, Rivers and Beaches Authority presented a case study, while the island’s Ministry of Tourism and Tourism Authority hosted a field trip to Fort Charlotte and the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Botanical Gardens.
Both the technical assistance programme and the OECS Heritage Tourism project are funded by the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) Regional Integration through Growth, Harmonisation and Technology (RIGHT) programme. The project will provide a sustainable avenue for National Trusts and similar institutions to continue to collaborate and benefit from each other.
As of September 21, 2022, an OECS Historic Heritage Asset Inventory recorded 70 heritage sites across the OECS that are vested in or managed by National Trusts and similar Institutions, and 11 tours and activities available to the public and visitors to the region. Also listed were a total of 16 experts with knowledge relating to heritage sites.
Several OECS Member States have identified Heritage Tourism as an important niche market. Moreover, the OECS Development Strategy articulates promoting environmental and cultural sustainability, developing a network of OECS heritage sites, and encouraging regional and national commitments to conserve, interpret and promote the region’s cultural heritage.
These actions are in keeping with the Revised Treaty of Basseterre Protocol Article 12 that mandates the Member States to develop a sustainable tourism industry whilst improving the quality of life of its citizens.