Strategic heritage tourism planning will be the focus of the opening general session of this year’s leading Caribbean gathering on sustainable tourism.

A panel of experts will examine the subject and make recommendations to delegates attending the 11th Annual Caribbean Conference on Sustainable Tourism, otherwise known as the Sustainable Tourism Conference (STC-11).

"The panel of highly qualified and experience presenters will discuss how the Caribbean can differentiate and enhance?? its tourism product based on the region’s rich and diverse tangible and intangible heritage," said Gail Henry, the sustainable tourism product specialist at the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), organisers of the conference.

"They will share lessons learned from various projects in which they have been involved and make recommendations, based on their experiences, on how the Caribbean can maximize the potential of heritage tourism," Ms. Henry added.

Among the panellists is Dr. Keith Nurse, the director of the Shridath Ramphal Centre for International Trade Law, Policy and Services, of the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados. Dr. Nurse will present his findings of a study of the performance of selected heritage tourism products and sites in the region. He will also discuss the critical success factors, best practices and pitfalls involved in developing heritage tourism.

??"For many Caribbean countries the key challenge is how to reconcile the need for a diverse product portfolio of visitor attractions and ???things to do’ that builds on the region’s unique image, brand and selling points," said Dr. Nurse, "whilst at the same time taking into account the rights of citizens to gain access to their heritage, sustaining the local eco-systems and respecting the need for income generating activities."

Delegates will also gain an understanding of the North American market for cultural and heritage tourism products in a presentation by Mary Mahon Jones, a Canadian-based tourism consultant specializing in cultural tourism. Ms. Mahon Jones is a former CEO of British Columbia’s tourism industry association.

??The opening plenary will also hear from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which will highlight its Youth PATH project. This programme aims to enhance the capacity of young people to manage natural and cultural heritage sites and create employment for out-of-school youth from marginalized communities.

Strategies to encourage community involvement in sustainable tourism will also be explored in a presentation by the Travel Foundation which has been implementing practical programmes in the Caribbean and in other regions, focussing on the creation of linkages between tourism and other economic sectors.

The theme for this year’s conference – scheduled to take place at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre (formally Sherbourne Conference Centre) in Barbados from 9-12 May 2010 – is Keeping the Right Balance: Creating Opportunities Through a World Class Sustainable Tourism Product..

The conference is being organised by the CTO, in collaboration with the Barbados Ministry of Tourism.

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