Structures at Grand Etang – Poor or Pure Grand Etang!

I endorse the sentiments expressed in the article penned by the Grenada National Trust on the 14 July, 2015 and the subsequent open letter penned to the Ministry of Tourism on the 5th August 2015 by Simon Searles alias “Mandoo”.

The contents pertain to the foreign and “so out of place” structures erected at Grand Etang Lake, under the auspices of the Ministry of Tourism. Is this an example of our PURE GRENADA tourism product?

Grand Etang is one of our most visited tourist attractions, perhaps second only to Grand Anse Beach. It is strategically secured in the “bosom” of Grenada. One visitor, writing on Trip Advisor, described her visit to this beautiful and serene attraction, “as a most relaxing and soul satisfying experience”.

Many aspects of the Tourism product are intangible and are constructed around a series of very personal and intimate cultural experiences offered by destinations to visitors. A sensible and sustainable policy states that the tourism product must reflect the heritage and the natural and built environment offered by the destination to visitors for consumption.

As described in the Sustainable Regional Tourism Destinations report 1997-2010, a sustainable tourism destination is reached when environmental, community and economic values are balanced, incorporating social and community values which is achieved through collaboration and compromise to reach a level and style of tourism that:

* Is appropriate for the natural, built and socio-cultural features and icons that are valued by the community;

* Is consistent with community values and aspirations both now and over the long term, and contributes to community development and well-being;* Increases the contribution of tourism to the economy of regional destinations and promotes long-term industry viability. (Sustainable Tourism Cooperative Research Centre, 1997-2010)

While we welcome contributions made to assist with our economic, social and cultural development by external sources; inclusive of funding agencies and governments we should ensure that investments made on our behalf must be appropriate and where necessary aesthetically appealing and fits the environment without being conspicuous. Tourism initiatives, attractions and products are particularly referenced here.

As espoused by the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives ( ICLEI), a primary challenge of local governance, both today and in decades ahead, is to steer increasingly external global forces on local development, so that such developments achieve the shared vision of the local population. (ICLEI, 1999)

The primary responsibility for this “steering process” rests with government and its diverse local authorities. As providers of social services, builders of economic infrastructure, regulators of economic activity, and managers of the natural environment, local authorities have many direct instruments at their disposal to influence development, whether with local or foreign input.

Failure by the Ministry of Tourism to guide the development at Grand Etang leaves one to conclude that there is a serious lack of understanding of Tourism development and the need for authenticity in the product offering. Especially so when it is so well articulated by the Grenada Touism Master Plan, 1997.

This document states that, “tourism development must be consistent with the protection and conservation of the country’s natural and cultural resources, built environment and the nation’s moral values”.

It further states that, “tourism development must foster the most appropriate form and scale of tourism development in harmony with the resource endowment of the islands and the aspirations of the people”

Additionally, too is UNESCO’s, Sustainable Tourism Report 1999 which highlights the fact that, “tourism should respect both local people and the traveller, cultural heritage and the environment”.

Tourists can be impressed and emotionally moved by a work of art, a festival, a musical performance, an attraction, a building or an object in a museum. These “home grown” tangible and intangible expressions of culture act as triggers for interpreting the visiting environment and world; past and present (Canestrini 2001).

We must therefore appeal to the Ministry of Tourism to be prudent and “fix” the current structure utilizing materials that reflect the built and cultural environment of this natural attraction.

Unfortunately, keeping the pagoda style structures will provide a sickening reminder of cultural sell-out and plain ignorance of the nature of tourism.

Naline Joseph

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