- Written by National Trust
The Saint Lucia National Trust formally launched Eco-South Tours Inc. on Tuesday, June 20th, 2012. This launch marks an important milestone in that it is the first time in which the Trust has established a not- for- profit tours’ company to support livelihoods pursuits at the community level. In the words of the Vice Chairman of the Trust, Martin Satney, the establishment of Eco-South Tours Inc. is an “opportunity for the resource users to grow into independent and thriving entrepreneurs rather than merely eking out an existence.”
Eco South Tours Inc. was formed by the Saint Lucia National Trust in 2011, to manage and oversee tours undertaken within the Pointe Sable Environmental Protection Area (PSEPA). The company had its genesis in the Sustainable Livelihoods Sub-project of the OECS Protected Areas and Associated Livelihoods Project (OPAAL), at the end of which a recommendation was made in the Socio-Economic Feasibility Study to establish such a company.
The components of Eco South Tours are:
- a tour of The Mankote’ Mangrove,
- cultural activities/entertainment at Mankoté Mangrove,
- a tour of the Maria Islands Nature Reserve,
- a native fishing tour,
- handicraft production, demonstration and sales,
- horse-back riding and
- a demonstration of the sea moss harvesting process at Bwa Chadon.
These tours and activities will be promoted, marketed and managed by this company to provide impetus for livelihoods support through the growth and development of heritage tourism in the south of Saint Lucia. Eco South Tours Inc. is governed by a board of seven directors comprising representatives from resource users groups, the Saint Lucia National Trust and the Southern Tourism Development Corporation.
At the launch, there were addresses from the Chairman of Eco-South Tours Inc., Mr. Cyril Saltibus, Vice Chairman of the Saint Lucia National Trust, Mr. Martin Satney and the feature address was delivered by the Prime Minister and District Representative for Vieux-Fort South, Honourable Dr. Kenny Anthony. The launch also featured performances by the drumming group, Tanbou Mele and well known pan player from Vieux-Fort, Mr. Emmanuel O’ Brien who performed a wonderful rendition of the national anthem. All present were also exposed to demonstrations by the various resource users operating under Eco-South Tours Inc., namely, The Unicorn Crafters Group, the Aupicon Charcoal and Agricultural Producers Group, the Savannes Bay Fishers and the Sea moss Farmers Association. The aim of this exhibition was to showcase the products and services of the resource users within the PSEPA. The users had an opportunity to promote their products and develop an awareness of the possibilities which exist for their offerings.
Prime Minister and District Representative for Vieux-Fort South, Honourable Dr. Kenny Anthony expressed his satisfaction with the level of progress made under the OPAAL project and pledged his full support for the Eco South Tours initiative. He went onto say that he is very pleased that the resource users, who form part of this tours company, have finally found a mechanism through which they can develop and expand their products and services, and by extension, improve their livelihoods. The Prime Minister provided several options for the further development of Eco-South Tours including seeking assistance through the newly established Government programmes such as the Heritage Tourism Programme and the National Initiative to Create Employment (NICE). These programmes can facilitate product development, further training of operators and tour guides, and provide an avenue for employment in the south.
Vice Chairman of the Trust, Martin Satney for his part declared that Eco-South Tours is a clear demonstration of the principle that resource conservation and sustainable livelihoods can co-exist. Mr. Satney also pledged the full commitment and support of the Trust in the development of the tour company, especially over the next three years, albeit that the Eco-South Tours must be dedicated to becoming self- sufficient. He urged the users to take this initiative very seriously and make full advantage of the many benefits to be derived from being part of a cooperative.
Chairman of Eco-South Tours, Mr. Cyril Saltibus, stated that the board of directors will do all it can to improve the product offerings and ensure value for money. He further stated that the Eco-South Tours will be tapping into the local market as well as the various hotels within the immediate vicinity especially the guests from the Coconut Bay Beach Resort and Spa.
The launch took place at the Mankote Mangrove Welcome Centre in Vieux-Fort which is a site under the operations of Eco-South Tours Inc.