Opinion: Tourism destinations need to find balanced sustainable growth

POSTED: 02/2/15 1:13 AM

LETTER TO THE EDITOR

There is some discussion related to the well-known Emilio Wilson Estate which has been purchased by Government back in December for a sum of Naf.30 million.

Rainforest Adventures has shown interests in developing part of the property according to media reports for an eco-tourism project.

Its environmental footprint seemingly will be very minimal while the majority of the estate will be left alone.  The project entails a zip-line to the top of Sentry Hill among other things.

Rainforest Adventures has a number of eco-tourism businesses in other countries namely: Costa Rica, Panama, Jamaica, and St. Lucia.

Rainforest Adventures aims to protect the tropical rain forests while offering world-class eco-tourism and nature excursion.  According to its website: “We promote environmental consciousness, and conserve endangered natural resources through innovative educational experiences in order to create a world-class sustainable tourism experience.”

The Emilio Wilson Estate offers a lot as it is rich in heritage and culture.  It is also an area where families can hold events.

Cultural, heritage and environmental organizations should come together and offer ideas with respect to what they would like to see happen to the property.

Tourism destinations such as ours are forced to remain ahead, and at the same time be innovative and creative in offering new tours for visitors.  One of the things missing is heritage and cultural tourism.  We need to promote this aspect of Sint Maarten/Saint Martin.  Our heritage and history are rich, unique and we should promote this in a sustainable manner.

Puerto Rico is one tourism destination that sees the importance of offering something different and also keeping ahead of competition.

Puerto Rico has now created the first nature reserve trail for blind people.  This is a niche travel market that the destination sees an opportunity to cater to this type of traveller.  The trails feature QR codes where people can listen to information about the reserve in the south eastern coastal town of Maunabo.  The Puerto Rico Government has also purchased special wheel chairs for people with physical impediments who also want to explore and enjoy the nature reserve.

It would be in the interests of all concerned to come together with respect to the Emilio Wilson Park and look at the various opportunities that exist and find a balanced sustainable way to continue to develop the tourism sector for generations to come.

Roddy Heyliger

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