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Regional private, public sectors unite for sustainability

Some of the world's most popular and appealing travel destinations are in jeopardy, vulnerable to issues such as climate change and unsustainable development. Several leading organisations have joined forces to address these challenges head-on by helping tourism destinations in the Caribbean and Latin America to safeguard their natural and cultural assets, while enhancing communities and securing a vibrant regional economy.

The new Sustainable Destinations Alliance for the Americas (SDAA), which was launched last Thursday at an event in Barbados, marks the largest effort to date through which public and private entities have united to focus on destination sustainability in the Americas. The alliance includes the Organisation of American States (OAS), the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, global NGO Sustainable Travel International, leading cruise vacation company Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, and the United States (US) government through the United States Permanent Mission to the OAS.

The SDAA will offer seven destinations in the Caribbean and Latin America significant support with their sustainability efforts. Each participating destination will begin with an evaluation of destination management practices designed to recognise areas of strength, and to identify areas in which they have the greatest opportunity to improve.

Online course

Destinations will also have access to an online sustainable tourism course called Sustainable Tourism Professionals, designed to facilitate implementation of sustainability practices, and a destination sustainability monitoring framework called SMART, which will support the tracking of key performance metrics. Results and lessons learned will be disseminated regionally to leverage market advantage, and to foster greater understanding among destination decisionmakers.

Sustainable Travel International, the Alliance's non-profit implementation partner, will conduct assessments in each destination using its Rapid Destination Diagnostic tool, which provides a snapshot of the destination's sustainability status, a summary of destination-management priorities, and valuable input to inform and shape destination-level policies.

The aim is for these seven destinations to follow the successful implementation of similar pilot programmes in Cozumel, Mexico and Roatán, Honduras. Thursday's announcement is also the first step in an active effort to expand the SDAA to include more than 30 destinations in the next few years, which would make it the largest initiative of its kind in the world.

The SDAA initiative, which will become a critical component of the OAS Sustainable Tourism Programme over the next two years, underscores the close inter-agency cooperation among the OAS and its regional partners, the strong involvement of key stakeholders, and collaboration with the private sector.

Indepth work in the first seven destinations is being financed through resources provided by the United States Permanent Mission to the OAS and by Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd through its Ocean Fund. Four destinations will be funded by the US Mission, and three will receive funding from Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. 

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