Saint Lucia is one of those places where everyone knows everyone. Each passer-by asks how *insert children/spouse name* are doing, or if you ever got around to getting your breaks checked, giving it a unique Caribbean homey feel. I feel nothing short of blessed to have linked up with the St. Lucian National Tour Guide of the Year (1999) – Deepa Girdari. Deeps (for short) received a degree in Tourism Management and has been with the Ministry of Tourism for 12 years. Next on her list is getting her Masters degree in environmental science. She has already proven to be most hospitable and packed full of island history. As a previous guide herself, she knows just about every nook and cranny of the island, including each and every tourist attractions.
After a good nights rest I shipped off to Castries for my first days work with Deeps. My bed and breakfast is just to the north of Castries in Gros Islet (see photo). All of the governmental buildings are in the capital as you can also see in the photo. The typical workday is similar to that in the states, 8-4:30. However, I have never taken a 3-hour lunch to go wandering about in the city market! After greeting and introducing myself to all of the Ministry employees, Deeps thought it best I do some light reading. The majority of my day today consisted of browsing documentation related to their climate change initiatives.
It already seems as though St. Lucia is ahead in terms of climate change adaptation measures. They have been developing policies and management strategies to implement nation wide for the past decade and have recently published the Saint Lucia Climate Change Adaptation Policy. This document was borne out of two previous publications, the National Climate Change Policy and Adaptation Plan (NCCPAC, 2011) and the Pilot Program for Climate Resilience. The policy marries the need to mitigate and adapt to the adverse effects of climate change as a means to increase their Nations’ resilience. The justification is if climate change will affect all citizens across all industries, everyone should share a responsibility to mitigate and adapt accordingly.
There are many initiatives and natural heritage sites seeking to adjust to the changing climate, although I have already identified one major barrier in the transition to sustainable development and overall sustainability. Deeps mentioned part of her job requires her to travel into the field to ensure all tourism accommodations are up to standards through the conduction of audits. Categories for compliance include site structure and surrounding area, health and sanitation, safety and security, and guest facilities. However, all standards are currently voluntary, with the exception of major resorts, which uphold to their own international standards. The only incentive currently in place is the endorsement from the Ministry itself. Any tourism site must adhere to the standards set by the Ministry to receive marketing of any kind. That all being said, the Ministry of Tourism, Heritage, and the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Energy, Science and Technology are all working towards a licensing and certification program that can be implemented to encourage compliance. This program will not be limited to accommodations, but will extend to all tourism types.
It is safe to say I have already gotten much more than I expected. I am greatly pleased with the general hospitality and help I have received thus far. Tomorrow will be another office day, but from Wednesday forward I will be doing site visits to meet owners/operators/general managers to get a better hands-on sense of how the island is adapting and responding to climate change.