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Sustainability discussed at COP27 Youth Forum

The Bahamas joined countries from around the globe at the 27th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP 27 in Egypt 6 – 18 November. Member countries discussed opportunities to collaborate on actions towards achieving the world’s collective climate goals under the Paris Agreement and the Convention. 

This year, as part of the United Nations Forum on Youth, the Sustainability Department of the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, Investments & Aviation, participated in panel discussions between national tourism entities on the challenge of climate mitigation and adaptation.

The Ministry’s sustainability initiatives are public/private partnerships undertaken with stakeholders representing local, national and international organizations: sustainability programming is currently being undertaken by the Ministry in climate mitigation and adaptation and community-based tourism — underpinned by the ESG principles of environmental conservation, socio-cultural heritage preservation and governance.

In a recent release on COP27 participation, the Ministry of Tourism, Investments and Aviation stated:

To promote environmental conservation, the Mission for the Mangroves Project, a Climate Action initiative, was developed to mitigate the negative impacts of climate change in vulnerable communities on Grand Bahama decimated by Hurricane Dorian, which eradicated 60% of the island’s mangrove cover. The Project is supported by public and private sector tourism and civil society with a focus on mangrove replenishment and reforestation toward rebuilding coastal resilience and the protection of coastal communities exposed to climate impacts.  The partnership initiative facilitates the training of BahamaHost certified transportation providers in the mangrove life cycle and their purposes, as well as mangrove replenishment   and environmental stewardship for their eventual designation as “Stewards of The Environment” (SOTEs). Additional capacity building in the use of digital technology will create a unique destination tour experience for visitors interested in nature-based experiences or fostering environmental protections and volunteerism during their travels. The use of digital technology in booking these tours is intended to ease the burden of conducting business in a digital space for stakeholders on the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama.

One of the Ministry’s signature Governance initiatives, Destination Stewardship, involves the partnership formed between the Ministry of Tourism, Investments & Aviation and the Global Sustainable Tourism Council to bring sustainable tourism standards and leadership in destination management to the community level within the Family Islands, with more inclusive approaches to tourism governance through the formation of destination stewardship councils (“DSCs”) as legal entities. 

Once established, Councils undergo capacity building in sustainability standards, visitor expectations in tourism product and service delivery and good governance in destination management and competitiveness. They also undertake projects in areas such as culture and heritage preservation, environmental/waste management and safety and security based on their unique attributes and tourism priorities. The first cohort of five DSCs, located on the islands of Andros, Eleuthera, Harbour Island and Exuma, completed legal formation in 2020 and some have deployed branding strategies which have already attracted international partnerships.  This year, another five (5) islands, namely Grand Bahama, Cat Island, Long Island, Abaco and Bimini, are engaging in sustainability training toward Council formation. It is the goal of the Ministry to facilitate destination stewardship council development on each of the 16 islands promoted by the Ministry of Tourism.

Councils are exposed to knowledge products and capacity building webinars in Tourism Planning & Management and Sample Case Studies in International Tourism Sustainability, Formation of Legal Entities in The Bahamas, Sustainable Waste Management for Destinations, Preserving Local Heritage, and Handicrafts; Grant Writing, International Community-Based Tourism Networks (Planeterra) and International Best Practices in Destination Stewardship. In the New Year, Councils will participate in local programming in Community Tourism and regional programming to improve their knowledge of Disaster Risk Management policies and practices through the Multi-Hazard Risk Management training via the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s online training platform to strengthen community crisis preparedness and emergency response capacities.

The Ministry has also spearheaded an Aluminium Recycling Pilot Project within its headquarters with Cans for Kids and Wastenot Bahamas which seek to change attitudes and influence behaviours towards recycling and increase awareness of the hazards of waste to human health and the environment. Educational campaigns were launched to sensitize BMOTIA staff and enlighten their households on the long-term benefits of recycling to reduce solid waste in landfills. Collections of thirty cents for each pound of aluminium recycled is returned to the community to support essential children’s programmes. The Programme has expanded to include Festivals and local events in New Providence with future for replication in the Family Islands.

The Andros Community-based Tourism (CBT) Cluster Project, the first of its kind in The Bahamas, seeks to position Andros as the premier ecotourism destination within the country. The Project brings together stakeholders from various sectors working along with a Cluster of businesses within the four districts of Andros to execute a Cluster Development Plan.

The Plan focuses on improving business resilience, marketing capacity, product quality and packaging and tour guiding to drive growth and re-position the destination to deliver increased income generation and improved demand for the destination’s product and service offering. The Project also promotes the importance of natural and cultural heritage conservation. This project has targeted proven community-tourism initiatives such as flatsfishing and bird-based tourism, which are considered low carbon activities and through the addition of more nature-based and cultural heritage experiences, seeks to advance a vision for successful all-year nature-based tourism on Andros. The project also operationalizes the CBT Cluster Development Plan and the formalization of the Cluster for effective governance and long-term sustainability.

Kristal Bethel, Senior Director for Sustainability at the Ministry, commented that the execution of sustainability programming by the Ministry of Tourism, Investments & Aviation, in alignment with the SDGs helps to build awareness of tourism’s impacts on the environment, the resource on which we rely for our economic and human survival.

Bethel further elaborated:

“This kind of programming also helps to simplify understanding of the complex issues and concepts around Sustainability within Family Island communities.  Given the importance of our tourism GDP in promoting positive and sustainable growth, we must take more seriously our national commitments to Climate Change, the global realities emanating from the Conference of the Parties and how we at the Ministry can continue to progress these types of projects within The Bahamas.”

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