Today’s travellers are booking experiential vacations that allow them to immerse themselves in the culture, people and history of a destination. Recognising this, indigenous communities across the Caribbean are accessing tourism markets and welcoming visitors to encounter their traditional ways of life.

The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) will highlight this important development in a general session at the upcoming Caribbean Conference on Sustainable Tourism Development, Aug. 26-29 in St. Vincent.

The panel titled “Indigenous Conversations – Celebrating Our Past, Embracing Our Future” is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. on Aug. 27.

The session will look at the changing composition of local livelihoods and demonstrate how the region’s indigenous people have a tangible role and stake in the Caribbean tourism value chain. Indigenous communities are utilising tourism markets to embrace expanded entrepreneurial opportunities, adding new dimensions to their sources of income, and create niches that are increasingly sought after.

Session speakers include Uwahnie Martinez, director of Palmento Grove Garifuna Eco Cultural & Fishing Institute in Belize, a private island retreat owned and operated by local Garifuna people; Colonel Marcia “Kim” Douglas, colonel of Jamaica’s Charles Town Maroon Community; a representative of the Indian Creek Mayan Art Women’s Group of Belize and Rudolph Edwards, the  (chief) of Rewa village in Guyana, a small Amerindian community of about 300 people, mostly from the Makushi tribe, who founded the Rewa Eco-Lodge in 2005 in an effort to protect their land for generations to come.

The session will be led by Zoila Ellis Browne, who was born in Belize and is the head of the Garifuna Heritage Foundation in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, where she is committed to the development of her indigenous heritage. 

Browne, a magistrate, also volunteers as technical programme consultant to the foundation, a Vincentian non-governmental organisation promoting Garifuna heritage and culture. 

The conference, otherwise known as the Sustainable Tourism Conference (#STC2019), is organised by CTO in partnership with the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Tourism Authority (SVGTA).

Under the theme “Keeping the Right Balance: Tourism Development in an Era of Diversification,” industry experts participating in #STC2019 will address the urgent need for a transformational, disruptive, and regenerative tourism product to meet ever-rising challenges. 

SVG will host STC amidst an intensified national thrust towards a greener, more climate-resilient destination, including the construction of a geothermal plant on St. Vincent to complement the country’s hydro and solar energy capacity and the restoration of the Ashton Lagoon in Union Island.