UN Teams helping Dominica rebuild safe, lasting structures

In the wake of the 2017 hurricane season the United Nations migration agency has been supporting local tradespeople in Dominica with safe construction skills to repair the damage and create conditions for a full recovery. A main knock-on effect is keeping locals from emigrating to other nearby nations.

One of the first beneficiaries to have her house repaired by local construction workers trained by the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) is 31-year-old Tessa Williams, a mother of three, whose eldest child is in a wheelchair and youngest still an infant.

“With this house, we have ensured that Tessa and her children have a safe home,” said Jan-Willem Wegdam, IOM’s team leader in Dominica. “The community sees there is actually something happening and we have completed the training of our carpenters on safe construction skills,” he added.

It’s not only about having a roof over their heads but about creating the conditions for a full recovery after a huge disaster. Rebuilding houses is also helping address some of the tensions in the community resulting from prolonged stay in makeshift dwellings or living in close coexistence with relatives or friends.

The work is also having another impact: it is keeping many people from migrating to neighbouring countries in search of better opportunities after losing their homes and means of livelihood in the aftermath of the hurricane.

This is an extract from an article first published on the St Kitts and Nevis Observer.

For regular updates on the restoration of Dominica’s tourism sector, visit the Dominica Update Blog

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Two nature-based voluntourism packages launched for Dominica

Discover Dominica Authority has announced two voluntourism packages for people interested in assisting with the recovery and rebuilding efforts following the passage of Hurricane Maria. Packages are available with Cobra Tours for restoration of one of Dominica’s premier tourist attraction sites – The Indian River. Meanwhile, Cool Breeze Tours also offers packages to clear segment 10 of the Caribbean’s first long distance walking trail – the Waitukubuli National Trail.

The Indian River Package is for five nights in either standard or superior accommodation and includes transportation to and from the site and three meals daily. Packages start at US$600 per person. A 40% discount is offered for monthly stays and a 15% group discount is available for bookings of 10 or more rooms. Interested persons can contact Cobra Tours and Yacht Services at [email protected] or [email protected]; telephone numbers 1 767 245 6332, 1 767 614 4874, and 1 767 245 6382.

The Waitukubuli National Trail package is suited for groups and individuals who can assist with clearing segment of the trail. Specific skills needed include use of chainsaws, cutlass and other garden tools. Packages include accommodation, breakfast and take away lunch and dinner. Special group rates are available. Guests will be accompanied by experienced guides. For more information on this package, contact Cool Breeze Tours at [email protected] or [email protected] or 1 767 245 1776.

For regular updates on the restoration of Dominica’s tourism sector, visit the Dominica Update Blog

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Discover Dominica Authority launches web page to update on tourism industry progress

Over the past weeks, Discover Dominica Authority (DDA) and the Ministry of Tourism and Urban Renewal together with other private and public sector stakeholders and partners have been working tirelessly to assess the readiness of Dominica to receive visitors.

While rebuilding Dominica’s tourism product will take time, it is important to keep potential visitors and stakeholders abreast of the progress. As such, Discover Dominica Authority has launched a new blog site, http://dominicaupdate.com, to provide regular updates on key visitor related products and services.

Updates to be included on the site range from accommodations, access, things to do, volunteering and voluntourism, as well as information of the relief efforts and responses to frequently asked questions. According to Director of Tourism Colin Piper, “This web page is another way that DDA is striving to keep its public informed about the realistic situation in Dominica post Hurricane Maria.”

There has been significant progress in the rebuilding process over the past two months since the passage of Hurricane Maria. According to a release by telecommunications provider FLOW, mobile phone service has been restored to approximately 80% of the population.

FLOW’s voice and internet service has also been restored to 70% the major business customers and 80% of government offices and departments. DIGICEL is reporting restoration of mobile phone service to ninety –five communities island wide. Restoration of water continues across various parts of the island and electricity restoration continues throughout the capital city Roseau and town of Portsmouth.

To date, eighteen (18) properties have indicated they have resumed or will resume accommodation services by December 1, 2017. Some amenities available at these properties will be limited but most have the ability to provide regular water and electricity.

The properties are Atlantique View Resort, Bay View Port Residence, Caribbean Seaview Apartments, Classique International, Coffeeriver Cottages, Emerald View Apartments, Hibiscus Valley Inn, Le Petit Paradis, Picard Beach Cottages, Picard Family Guest House, Pointe Baptiste Guest House, Portsmouth Beach Hotel, Rejens Hotel, St. James Bed & Breakfast, Suite Pepper Cottage, Sunset Bay Club, Tamarind Tree Hotel & Restaurant, and 3 Rivers Eco Lodge & Rosalie Forest Eco Lodge.

Winners of WTM Responsible Tourism Awards 2017 announced

A safari camp, a five star hotel and nature reserve, a European capital city, and three different rural tourism projects have been announced as the winners of the 2017 WTM Responsible Tourism Awards. For over a decade the World Responsible Tourism Awards have been presented at World Travel Market in London each November. However, this year marks the first time that they have also been organised by WTM, who take over from responsibletravel.com.

For the first time, each winner is being recognised as a ‘Leader in Demonstrating Responsible Tourism Impact’, to mark the fact that 2017 is the UN International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. For the first time, therefore, the awards have focussed not just on which companies, organisations and destinations are running the most inspiring projects, but on which could show the measurable impact of their work. The six winners are as follows:

Chobe Game Lodge in Botswana won the Best for Carbon Reduction category. The lodge has a youth development programme that has trained nearly 200 young people; a profit share scheme for staff; and a women’s empowerment programme that means now 65% of all staff are female – they even have an all-female team of professionally qualified guides.

The Best for Accommodation category was won by Grootbos, a luxury hotel set in its own private nature reserve in South Africa. Grootbos is now in the fourth year of measuring, collecting and collating sustainability data, while reducing their use of mains power by 10% in the last reporting year, and installing a solar installation that powers Grootbos Garden Lodge and the Grootbos Foundation.

The Best Community Initiative award went to Sapa O’Chau, a female ethnic minority-owned enterprise in Vietnam employing 50 staff, two thirds of whom are female and 90% of whom come from an ethnic minority. Their vision is to provide all local young people with a high school education, all members of the community with an opportunity to obtain a sustainable career, and to engage with others to create meaningful social change.

The city of Ljubljana won the Best Communication award. In 2016 the Slovenian capital city adopted a Sustainable Urban Strategy, which enables hotels and restaurants to source locally through its Green Supply Chains online portal, while the DMO is working to encourage the use of public transport and to spread tourists beyond the city. At a time when many European cities are facing backlashes against tourism from angry residents, a 2016 survey in Ljubljana showed that 92% of residents believe tourism has a positive effect on the city.

South Africa’s Transfrontier Parks Destinations (TFPD) was chosen by the judges as the Best Tour Operator. Founded in 2004 to support economically poor rural communities through commercialising community-owned lodges, it now works with 50 villages and has created 147 permanent jobs in rural areas, which in turn support around 955 dependents. TFPD also works to help its member lodges develop a supply chain network of independent micro-enterprises and ensure their viability by providing regular business for them. This has generated R6.4M (£350,000) for such microenterprises since 2004.

Indian tour operator Village Ways won the Best for Poverty Reduction award for its work developing a network of walking trails and community owned guest houses though rural India. The company has created 19 village owned-and-run guest-houses, securing employment from 261 families in those villages.

The complete list of 12 finalists is: Chobe Game Lodge, Crystal Creek Meadows, Grootbos, Green Tourism Business Scheme, Kumarakom, Ol Pejeta, Marine Dynamics, Sapa, Slovenia, Transfrontier Parks Destinations, TUI Cruises and Village Ways.

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Responsible Tourism at WTM 2017 – highlights from Wednesday’s sessions

WTM Executive Director Simon Press opened wednesday’s World Responsible Tourism Day by reminding the audience that the focus this year has been on two key topics – overtourism and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. “Responsible tourism should be the backbone of this industry,” says Simon Press. “However overtourism is destroying the very environment and failing to give back”, adding that the winners of the WTm responsible tourism awards epitomise what is possible when responsible tourism is made central to company’s ethos. The day’s sessions began with with a panel session looking at What contribution does tourism really make to sustainable development?

While acknowledging that there were several individual examples of excellent businesses and organisations in the world, and more than ever before, Harold Goodwin, WTM Responsible Tourism Advisor, was not optimistic overall. “As a whole the industry is still doing very little, many are in denial,” he said. “Destinations have an overtourism problem but they just want more growth.”

His criticism was reinforced by Adama Bah from ICRT West Africa. “Governments still count in terms of numbers and not in terms of benefit for communities,” he said. They only think in terms of volume, how many tourists are they bringing in?”

Bah also said that the idea of development as some form of charity had to stop. “The Santa Claus mentality must stop,” said Adama Bah. “People must stop coming to developing countries looking to see how they can help. Rather destinations must be able to take control of their own future.” He said he wanted the UNWTO to work with more than just governments, and to work with private sector and communities, ensuring market access for local communities is key.”

“Destinations have an overtourism problem but they just want more growth” Harold Goodwin

This session was followed by the World Responsible Tourism Awards, this year organised for the first time by WTM after 11 years being developed by responsibletravel.com. There were six winners across the following categories: Grootbos won Best for Accommodation; Chobe Game Lodge won Best for Carbon Reduction; Ljubljana won Best for Communication, Sapa O’Chau won Best Community Initiative, Village Ways won Best for Poverty Reduction and Transfrontier Parks Destinations won Best Tour Operator.

The other finalists were also recognised, with the session’s host Tanya Beckett stating Chair of the Judges Harold Goodwin had insisted it was important to emphasise that the margin between those who were the final winners, and the other finalists was only small. The remaining finalists were Crystal Creek Meadows, Green Tourism Business Scheme, Kumarakom, Ol Pejeta, Marine Dynamics and TUI Cruises.

The afternoon saw a session looking at the significance of the launch earlier in 2017 of the Berlin Declaration on Transforming Tourism, which argues that it is not possible to transform our world without transforming tourism. “We need unambiguous structural change”, said Andy Rutherford, Director, Fresh Eyes – People to People Travel, explaining that the transforming tourism agenda puts citizens at heart of a participatory democratic process defined by local level consultation, and where tourism has a role to play, but not where it dominates.” He added that full transparency was needed so that guests and anyone else can see exactly where the money goes.

“Accessible tourism is a necessity, a human right, and also an opportunity,” said Carlos Vogeler, UNWTO Executive Director for Member Relations, during a session asking Can tourism be made accessible for all? “Destinations should see this as a huge chance to connect to many more guests,” he added.

His words were supported by Ade Adepitan MBE, a Paralympian and TV presenter, who said: “Most of us will have some sort of special need at some point in our lives. Yet there are still places where I am seen as inconvenience.” Adepitan said that while it is acknowledged that everyone has a right to travel, it often seems to him that people with disabilities are further penalised for having a disability. “If you aren’t rich it can be almost impossible to travel,” he said. “Why should we we have to pay extra to be able to access?” He concluded that people need to realise it is possible for anywhere to do it, citing the example of the 2,000 year old Colosseum in Rome has even installed a lift to make it possible for people in wheelchairs to experience it. Magnus Berland, the Accessibility Director, Scandic Hotels, said the industry needs to move to a Design for All mindset, where all the rooms in the hotel were accessible to all people, rather than just a small number of rooms depending upon what regulations require.

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