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The top scoring island destination was Denmark's Faroes with 87, followed by places as various

as the Azores, the Shetlands, Mackinac Island, Michigan and Texel in the Netherlands.

Only ten points behind were Dominica and the Grenadines.



 Book by John Maxwell

How to Make Our Own News: A Primer for Environmentalist and Journalists

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The nearly naked & the almost dead

NGS Scores Island Tourist Destinations

By John Maxwell


Several people believe that the government has either given the go ahead or is about to give the go ahead to the building of the second part of the Bahia Principe project at Runaway Bay. If this is true, the government is about to make a monumental and extremely expensive error.

I am speaking not simply as a Jamaican who is fiercely protective of his country's natural environment, but as someone who can read and take note of what other people think about us. Ordinarily, I hold that Jamaicans are much too concerned with external fashions and views and too little with our own wisdom and judgment. This time is different.

The National Geographic Society (NGS) of the US is probably the world's most influential popular environmental organisation and its magazine, more than a century old, is increasingly respected for its accuracy and thoroughness on environmental matters

The NGS some years ago established a Centre for Sustainable Destinations (CSD) with the mission "to help protect the world's distinctive places through wisely managed tourism and enlightened destination stewardship"

This Centre aided by George Washington University, has recently completed a detailed audit of tourism destinations round the world, surveying "conditions on 111 selected islands and archipelagos in its fourth annual Destination Scorecard survey. The survey reflects evaluations made by a panel of 522 well-traveled experts representing a variety of fields, including ecology, sustainable tourism, geography, travel writing and photography, site management, historic preservation, indigenous cultures and archaeology

The good news about this survey is that Jamaica was not the lowest rated island destination in the world. The bad news is that Jamaica scored worse than all but three other islands, tying with the Turks & Caicos and coming in slightly ahead of Ibiza (Spain) and St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands.

The reports are obviously thorough and the experts are equally obviously, people who know the tourism business.

In the survey every destination was given a score based on the factors mentioned above. The category scores reflected levels of excellence as follows:

0-25: Catastrophic: all criteria very negative, outlook grim.

26-45: In serious trouble.

46-65: In moderate trouble: all criteria medium-negative or a mix of negatives and positives.

66-85: Minor difficulties.

86-95: Authentic, unspoiled, and likely to remain so.

96-100: Enhanced.

According to this scale, our rating at 45 means that our tourism product is in serious trouble. Jamaica’s score tied with Providenciales in the Turks & Caicos and came ahead only of Ibiza and St Thomas (USVI) both tied for last at 37.

The top scoring island destination was Denmark's Faroes with 87, followed by places as various as the Azores, the Shetlands, Mackinac Island, Michigan and Texel in the Netherlands. Only ten points behind were Dominica and the Grenadines. In the seventies were St John USVI, Anguilla and Nevis all 70 with Bonaire, St Vincent, the Bahama Out Islands, Bermuda, and Tobago a little lower.

Caribbean destinations in the next level down –"In moderate trouble, all criteria medium negative or a mix of negatives and positives were St Lucia, Martinique, Barbados, Tortola BVI, Grenada, St Kitts, Curacao, Guadeloupe, St Croix USVI and Puerto Rico above 50 with Antigua, Aruba, Grand Cayman, Roatan (Honduras) St Maarten (Neth/Fr.) Cozumel, Mexico, Key West, Florida making up the remainder of the Caribbean cohort.

The panel made specific reference to the problems they found. In Aruba for instance4:  the "social/cultural integrity is questionable" while "Inappropriate coastal development and misuse of scarce water resources are the largest challenges to sustainability."

About Barbados they said: “Beautiful natural and cultural resources. Problems are coastal and unsustainable Agriculture" and "too many traditional tourism products"

Negril, the jewel of Jamaica tourism industry is rated at 46 in a separate survey of individual destinations by the same panel and they say of that outpost:

• "The only benefits for locals are employment and the all-inclusive products are doing very little for the local economy. Negril is in serious trouble."

• "Negril is now just another tourist destination. They really don't understand sustainable tourism."

The Jamaican North Coast is rated one point higher than Negril, but this isn't saying much:  "Poverty and corruption, enclave tourism, little economic benefit for locals, no environmental protection, lack of interest in true culture."

"Well done in some areas, but strictly commercial with little regard for the environment."

From these Jamaican disasters it is  almost a relief to turn to the North Coast of the Dominican Republic  "Far too rapid development with inadequate environmental planning and infrastructure…and  "Beautiful, beautiful terrain. Although mass tourism is rampant in certain sectors, there is much ecotourism potential." We are not entirely alone in our misery.

Bulldoze and start again’

Another survey, rating destinations generally, was carried out in concert with the (English) Leeds Metropolitan University. This survey may give false comfort when we see that the Spanish Costa Brava (46) and the Costa del Sol (41) are in the same class as Negril and the Jamaican North Coast. When it is realised that the people helped turn the Costas into disaster areas are among those wanting to relocate here, it produces a frisson of horror.

Of the Costa Brava the survey commented, "Overcrowded, mass tourism, unappealing, beaches in poor condition [shades of the Bahia Principe].

Of the Costa del Sol the judgment is "the epitome of overdeveloped mass tourism and the recommendation is stark–"Bulldoze and start again. Jerry-built flats and hotels, abysmal architecture, degraded beaches. Too much built, too quick with too little forethought – the antithesis of sustainability."

The French Riviera, as might be expected, got short shrift: "Spoiled nature! Lost most of its charms due to overbuilding – quality management of public space is insufficient. Wonderful physical setting but abysmally overdeveloped. No sense of being in France. Degraded, overcrowded beaches.”

It is clear from reading the surveys that the people conducting them are sensible, levelheaded and even conservative types who have great respect for natural and cultural values and for the unique integrity of place.

The NGS is not alone in its dismissal of Jamaica's conventional tourism product. Two weeks ago the New York Times published a survey of Caribbean destinations, without rating them. The Jamaican review concentrated exclusively on the Eastern, Portland end of the island:

“For many tourists, visiting Jamaica means checking into an all-inclusive resort along the white sand beaches of Negril or Montego Bay. But Port Antonio, in the northeastern parish of Portland, offers a more affordable alternative, along with a slower pace, fewer tourists and more cultural immersion than a weekend of pretty palm trees and stiff rum drinks on the beach."

The keyword in most of these reviews is ‘culture’ and it comes as a huge surprise to me, at least, that tiny Barbados with its gentle, mostly middleclass history, should rate higher for cultural interest than Jamaica with its Maroons, Morant Bay rebellion, Spanish and English architecture, dozens of great houses and ruined sugar factories and reggae to name only the most obvious.

We seem to be going about things the wrong way. People are attracted to Jamaica, not to the Bahia Principe or to some golf course theme park or mini-zoo. What is different about Jamaica IS Jamaica and most of us don’t recognise that fact.

Raped, maimed and left for dead

Only a sadist would now attempt to rate Haiti's tourism product. That country has been strip-mined economically and environmentally by Americans and Europeans, particularly by  the French. Haiti is being punished for its mortal sin of casting out the 'foreign devils' in 1804, She has been made to suffer the torments of hell since.

Right now, Haiti is bearing the most excruciating punishment, bereft of its leaders and governed by envoys from George Bush, Canada and France. Its children are being raped and corrupted by the very United Nations troops sent in to ‘restore order and keep the peace.” Its national leaders are still being hunted like wild animals, and after Hurricane Noel, the poorest people in the Western hemisphere are left to starve.

The latest outrage is the death threats and a possible assassination attempt against Guy Delva, head of SOS Journalistes, and chair of the recently-created Independent committee looking into the unsolved murders of journalists in Haiti.

While it isn’t yet known who was responsible for the terror, Delva has suggested there may be a link with Senator Rudolph Boulos, a member of the rich and influential Boulos family and a leader of the Haitian élite.

In October, Delva, on his  morning news show on Port-au-Prince’s Radio Melodie FM, published what he said was evidence that Senator Boulos was an  American  citizen who lied about his nationality in order to be appointed a Senator.

In addition, Delva is chairman of the journalists’ commission   overseeing investigations into unsolved murders of Haitian journalists. Delva has also recently Senator Bouloshis refusal  to answer questions from the investigating judge in the case of the murdered journalist, Jean Dominique. Boulos has refused to answer question about the murder on the ground that he enjoys immunity as a Senator.

Since Boulos and his ilk had been claiming that Dominique was murdered by friends of President Aristide, it is hard to see why they don't want to help the police with their inquiries.

Apart from the political intimidation, the kidnappings and other atrocities, Haiti is right now in the throes of starvation, following Hurricane Noel. A message from Attorney Marguerite Laurent, of the Haitian lawyers Leadership Council, says Haitians are now in desperate need of food and drinkable water:

We are especially in need of portable water, water treatment equipments  and medicines like aquatabs to make the water safe to drink.

The folks also need blankets, non-perishable foods, first aid supplies, toothpaste, soap, toothbrushes, shoes (sneakers), sandals, undergarments - both for men and women.

However, the most urgent need we are hearing about, from the people of  Site Soley, over and over again, is for food and for water treatment (acquatabs) tablets.

. . . HLLN has spoken to the folks at acquatabs ( and  they agreed to provide us with a few emergency packs at their cost.

‘We'd like to purchase as many Emergency Packs of Acquatabs as we can raise the money for. The cost, we were quoted, for each Emergency package is $350 Canadian  dollars, not including freight costs. Each tablet treats 20 liters or 5 gallons. Each emergency package contains 14,000 tablets.

So, if you'd like to help us with the cost of the water treatment tabs, make a donation at our (HLLN) paypal account: Marguerite Laurent and email us to let  us know ( , or call HLLN at 203 829 7210 ) TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE.

If anyone knows an organization willing to DONATE acquatabs, that would obviously be even more appreciated.

FOOD: Those who wish to send food directly to the people of Site Soley may do so through CAM (Caribbean Air Mail - )  and indicate you are sending the food donation to Me. Evel Fanfan, AUMOHD  DWA MOUN, Phone: 509-754-8022 ), CAM in Haiti will call Mr. Fanfan and his people immediately, as soon as the packages are paid for and AUMOHD-CCDH will make direct distribution to Site Soley families who are hurt, hungry, homeless

You can buy packages of foodstuffs at $100, $200, $300 and up, on the Internet from (8 to 5p.m) anywhere in the world, and it will be packaged in Haiti and distributed to the receiver the same day. CAM will deliver the food package to whatever location Evel Fanfan/Aumohd should request. This is the way most Haitians use to help their families in  Haiti.

And, the manner that will assure the food goes DIRECTLY and IMMEDIATELY to the intended beneficiaries in  SITE SOLEY.

If you do send anything through CAM 1-800-934-0440 (Haiti Division), whether it is a money or food transfer, let them know that you are working with  the Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network and that you want verification that  the items you purchased was given directly to Evel Fanfan/AUMOHD DWA MOUN,Phone: 509-754-8022.

I think that we need to put our money where our mouths are and when we talk about Caribbean solidarity we need to take the small concrete steps needed to demonstrate that we are not prating hypocrites.

Copyright©John Maxwell

posted 11 November 2007 

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