TOBAGO continues to make a global mark in sustainable tourism development, as two tour boats – Ms Ayana and Cool Runnings – were granted the prestigious Blue Flag award.
This accolade, a Tobago Tourism Agency Ltd (TTAL) release said, comes after Tobago got its first Blue Flag award in 2021 – the first in the entire English-speaking Caribbean, when tour boat Top Catch Charters to the honour.
The Blue Flag is a global symbol of quality recognised in more than 50 countries that signifies adherence to strict criteria relating to organisation, cleanliness, environmental management and services.
The TTAL embraced Blue Flag as a tool to promote sustainability in Tobago’s tourism sector through environmental education and providing quality service and safety standards to visitors.
On Monday November 28, TTAL partnered with Blue Flag national co-ordinator Green T&T to present awards to Tobago’s newest Blue Flag boat operators, and recertify last year’s winner for the 2022/2023 season, in a ceremony at the Pigeon Point Heritage Park.
Awards for Green Key recertification – an international eco-label awarded to tourism accommodation – were also granted to hotels Adventure Eco-Villas and Shepherd’s Inn.
Secretary of Tourism, Culture, Antiquities and Transportation Tashia Burris congratulated the awardees in her remarks and implored them to do their part in encouraging their fellow stakeholders to enhance the island's competitiveness by adhering to global standards.
“Each of you who have now attained this standard have the responsibility to talk to your friends in the sector…so we can all aspire to meet these standards.
"If we have more and more persons coming onboard with certifications such as Blue Flag and Green Key, then Tobago is sending a signal – not just nationally, not just regionally, but internationally – that we are serious about our tourism offerings.
"We are serious about getting it right. We are serious in ensuring that the person who visits this island can get the highest quality of service and the highest quality of experience,” Councillor Burris stated.
Blue Flag program co-ordinator at Green T&T, Michelle Lewis, applauded awardees for their persistence in meeting the stringent award criteria, even during the challenges of post-pandemic recovery.
Participants in Blue Flag programme would have participated in environmental education and awareness initiatives provided by Buccoo Reef Trust, as well as certifications in First Aid and CPR/AED training from the Trinidad and Tobago Red Cross.
The boat operators were recipients of grant funding from the UNDP’s Global Environmental Facility Small Grants Programme to assist in applying for the Blue Flag program, and ultimately meeting the criteria for the prestigious environmental award.
“Becoming a sustainable tourism operator seemed almost impossible and out of reach for many of the tourism-based businesses in Trinidad and Tobago, especially since the Covid restrictions almost destroyed their businesses.
"However, time, commitment and passion for change motivated the new and existing operators to become advocates for the environment. Tobago is making its mark and championing the cause for real change in the environmental sphere,” Lewis said.
Officials from TTAL, Green T&T and the Division of Tourism completed the handover ceremony on Tobago’s iconic Pigeon Point Jetty with awardees Dexter Black, owner/operator of Ms Ayana, Ronnie Elliot, owner/operator of Cool Runnings, Kirth Mc Pherson, captain of Top Catch Charters, Colin Shepherd, owner of Shepherd’s Inn, and Ian McKay, owner of Adventure Eco Villas.
Delivering closing remarks at the event, Kirsten Cowie-Irvine, Product Development Officer at TTAL, reiterated the value of continued collaboration between the Agency and stakeholders to enable tourism development in Tobago.
“Today’s ceremony represents the Tobago Tourism Agency Limited’s commitment to collaborating with industry stakeholders to ensure that our visitor’s experiences are authentic and sustainable.
"The Agency remains dedicated to raising the overall quality of the destination’s experiences, while fostering continuous and positive engagement with stakeholders to improve accessibility, product quality, and address systemic challenges,” Cowie Irvine said.