“When there is no vision, the people perish; but he that keepeth the law, happy is he” – Proverbs 29:18

The thirteenth event, in just over four years, of the series ‘Caribbean Media Exchange on Sustainable Tourism’, CMEx (the four day version) and CMExPress (the one day version), took place in San Juan, Puerto Rico just over a week ago. This was the CMEx version mounted by Counterpart International, hosted by the Puerto Rico Tourism Company and supported by a number of regional and international public and private sector sponsors.

These events may be regarded as a meeting place for sustainable tourism officials and media professionals, both media bosses and journalists. Regional and International representatives from the private and public sectors, a contrast of youth and experienced personnel, gathered in a networking, action packed, interactive, fun-filled environment to address the theme ‘Sustainable Development – A Balancing Act’.

Bevan Springer, the CMEx coordinator, has advised that, since the event, the more than forty media professionals at CMEx VIII, about half of the participants who attended the event, have produced an unprecedented large number of stories in the print, radio and television media. Sponsors, as a result, get good value for their investment and great satisfaction for their contribution to what is the main driver of the economies in the Caribbean.

The sponsors included Almond Resorts, Association of Caribbean Media Workers, Bay Gardens Hotel, Black Entertainment Television (BET Jazz), Caribbean Alliance for Sustainable Tourism, Caribbean Broadcasting Union, Caribbean Hotel Association, Caribbean World News Network, Coco Resorts, ENG Caribbean Vision Center, Puerto Rico Tourism Company, Ruder Finn, SpeakEasy M.E.D.I.A. Inc., Spirit Airlines, The Tourism Development Company Limited of Trinidad and Tobago, United Nations Development Programme, and ‘We are the Caribbean Media Services’. The proceedings of CMEx were streamed live, both audio and video, on the Internet.

The networking opportunity was phenomenal. If only 1% of the possible pairs of contacts among the professionals at CMEx VIII yielded a business opportunity, then there would over thirty business opportunities spawned by this event.

The topics covered included: (1) Restoring the balance destroyed by the grown-ups – a youth point of view; (2) Holistic sustainable development with perspectives on Spiritual Awareness, Entrepreneurial Development, Renewable Energy, Socio-Cultural environment, Physical Environment; (3) Here comes the sun – Keeping rooms in hot water, Keeping the planet out of it; (4) Puerto Rico’s Vision for Sustainable Tourism; (5) Culture, History and Tourism – a powerful combination; (6) A new Vision for Caribbean Programming; (7) Tourism and Quality of Life: which comes first?; (8) Media Bosses – optimising the Human Resource; (9) Tourism and Nation Branding; (10) The introduction of tough legislation to halt ‘unscrupulous operators’ engaging in irresponsible hotel and tourism development in the region.

The recreational events included (1) An historic walking tour through the narrow cobblestone streets and colorful colonial buildings of Old San Juan; (2) Noche Puertorriqueña with Music; (3)

A Nature Walk in El Yunque Rainforest; (4) Kayaking at the Cabezas de San Juan Nature Reserve in Fajardo (it is not as easy as you may think); (5) Carnival Night and participants’ Talent Show; (6) Gala Awards Dinner Banquet.

I would like to focus here on the presentation on ‘Tourism and Quality of Life: which comes First? by Emil Lee, President, St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association. Lee’s vision for St Maarten is extremely innovative. His message promotes a generic tool which can contribute to the development of any community.

The subtitle of the book ‘Small is Beautiful by the late E.F. Schumacher, is ‘A study of Economics, as if people really mattered. This is what I think Mr Lee is getting at. If we focus on ‘Quality of Life’ issues, we then have a very receptive and happy human environment in which to implement economic strategies. This is true whether we are in the agricultural, industrial or ICT age. In a commentary on ‘Small is Beautiful’, R.H. Tawney opined that ‘A reasonable estimate of economic organisation must allow for the fact that, unless industry is to be paralysed by current revolts on the part of outraged human nature, it must satisfy criteria which are not purely economic’.

Certainly in my continuing aggressive promotion of high growth enterprise development, I will certainly now be mindful of the need to create an environment which stresses the importance of a high ‘Quality of Life’, both at the supply and demand ends, to the success of the development trust.

‘What is the purpose of life?’ In my ‘book’, it is to create happiness and avoid pain for oneself and all those within one’s sphere of influence. This is the ideal. In my experience, one will never make a perfect score because of the complexity of the human being manifested by one’s physical, intellectual, spiritual and emotional needs. I will provocatively state that the purpose of life is to accumulate wealth, but will hastily add that the real measure of your wealth is how much you’d be worth if you lost all your money. We must therefore focus on holistic wealth, on the comprehensive development of the human being.

As we aspire to the vision of sustainable tourism, first recognise the importance of Quality of Life.