Tobago's tour operators' efforts towards achieving sustainable development have been recognised with Blue Flag awards.
Buccoo Reef tour operators Ms Ayana and Coolrunnings, have joined Top Catch Charters with Blue Flag certification.
The latter was the first in the English-speaking Caribbean to achieve such designation in February this year. Top Catch Charters of Buccoo was recertified for the 2022/2023 Blue Flag season.
The operators' certification was possible through financial assistance from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Global Environment Facility (GEF) Strategic Planning Group (SPG) Trinidad and Tobago Office’s Green Innovator Challenge.
The Blue Flag certification for beaches, boats, and marinas is a highly valuable branding and marketing tool for eco-friendly services and speaks specifically to the European tourism source markets. It is managed by the international Foundation for Environmental Education.
This programme has been operating in Europe since 1987 and has become a highly respected and recognised award, working to bring together the tourism and environmental sectors at local, regional and national levels to ensure sustainable tourism.
Currently, the Blue Flag is flying at over 4,800 sites in 50 countries and has over 80 Blue Flag-awarded boat operators worldwide.
The certification process in Tobago was facilitated by Green T&T, the National Operator for the Blue Flag programme and endorsed by the Tobago Tourism Agency Ltd.
Green T&T's CEO, Joanna Moses-Wothke, said, "This major achievement means the boat operators understood and complied with strict international standards pertaining to environmental management, environmental education and information, safety and services, as well as social responsibility; they are now ready to reap the marketing and sales benefits of this prestigious award.”
The Tobago boat operators were trained by Green T&T to reduce their environmental footprint, improve their environmental interpretation skills, and use Blue Flag as a post-covid recovery tool and meet Blue Flag’s stringent performance criteria.
Shivonne Peters, manager of Top Catch Charters, expounded on the significance of recertification of the Blue Flag award:
“Our second Blue Flag award is especially thrilling for us at Top Catch Charters. For the second year, we have fulfilled our goal of providing eco-friendly tours and reducing our environmental impact. It’s not just about Top Catch Charters but also about the transformation of Tobago’s tourism industry.
"Sustainable tourism is possible and Top Catch Charters intends to continue this drive and provide the highest standard possible, not only with respect to our environmental regulations but also our guest experience.”
Dr Sharda Mahabir, national co-ordinator GEF SGP UNDP, also extended her congratulations and expectations: “GEF SGP is pleased to support Green T&T in their efforts to strengthen tourism by certifying boat operators under Blue Flag. This certification will put our beautiful sister isle on the map in terms of initiatives in support of the blue economy. We look forward to positive outcomes and benefits coming out of this project and more GEF SGP projects on the sister isle.”
Green T&T said Tobago is making its mark and championing the cause for real change regarding sustainable tourism, post covid-recovery, and climate change resilience.