TOURISM & WATER : PROTECTING OUR COMMON FUTURE
JEANNE VANTERPOOL-ROGERS PRESIDENT SAINT-MARTIN TOURISM OFFICE
Over the last few years water has become a major high cost commodity. Here on Saint-Martin the cost of a plastic bottle of drinking water can be higher than the price of gasoline at the pump, ranging from $1.00 per liter cold at the grocery store to $5.00 for one of the designer water labels at a restaurant. An article in gulfbusiness.com stated recently that water is one of the “great long-term investment opportunities. It’s a key component in creating food; it’s widely used in industry and a source of cleanliness for billions of people. Oil is replaceable. Water isn’t.”
For our small tourism based economies, water is an indispensable primary commodity. In fact it is one of the basic elements that contribute to our success as tourist destinations.Our pristine white sand beaches and turquoise blue waters have been one of the biggest selling points for our tourism trade. Grand events such as the HeinekenRegatta and the enchantment of snorkeling in waters filled with beautiful fish appeal to the senses and entice with their promises of relaxation, fun and adventure. This is in part why this year’s World Tourism day theme “Tourism & Water: Protecting our Common Future” speaks to usas tourism professionals.
The importance of water in our everyday, challenges us to improve our ability to monitor and regulate many of our industries and infrastructure including our rainwater runoff and sewage networks. Preservation of our mangrove, cleanliness of our beaches and the important work that organizations such as the Natural Reserve, Nature Foundation and others do for the protection of our environment, all help to preserve the natural beauty and various ecosystems that compose our greatest natural assets.
As important as the beauty and cleanliness of our natural water sites are,it is our capacity to produce and maintain a high standard of potable water to supply our hotels and restaurants that directly impacts the tourism trade. Our ability to produce water is growing. The addition of a more modern network, more storage tanks and better maintenance as well as our ability to improve delivery to our population and reduce losses is essential to supplying a growing population and an ever increasing number of stay-over visitors.
However, we must endeavor to improve and accelerate our efforts towards more efficient management and sustainable use of water sources, especially those of our ponds, wells and springs. As perhaps the greatest users of our water resources,the tourism industry must also place more emphasis on quickly developing and implementing more responsible water consumptionprograms. Through the sponsoring of awareness initiatives on sustainable water resources for our residents and our visitorsalike we can play a major role in conservation as well.
As an industry, it behooves us to make every effort to sustain a healthy environment, protect our beaches, mangroves, and marine life if we want to maintain and improve our capacity to attract the increasing number of visitors looking for “green destinations." More important, as an integral part of our community we must pay serious attention to preservation of our environment and improvement of our overall quality of life.
Tourism and water are both indispensible to our economy and our everyday life. Together as a community we must make every effort to protect our common future.