“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” – Isaiah 40: 29-31

The fifteenth version of the Caribbean Media Exchange on Sustainable Tourism (CMEx), www.caribbeanmediaexchange.com, took place recently in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

CMEx, has (1) helped the Caribbean and International media to better understand the importance of genuinely sustainable tourism to communities, governments and civil society; (2) enhanced the sensitivity of government, industry and NGO participants to the importance of getting accurate and timely information to the media to enable the Fourth Estate to improve the quality and quantity of the coverage of the region’s most productive industry; (3) encouraged and enabled the Caribbean media to educate Caribbean residents, tourists, governments and the tourism industry about the huge value of sustainable tourism to the development of healthier and wealthier communities; (4) moved tourism related stories from the social pages, to hard news and business sections and thus increased the trust between stakeholders in an industry which employs one in every four of the region’s workers; (5) been recognized by the tourism industry as boosting the flow and substance of comprehensive tourism-related articles, stories,
radio shows, television programs broadcast/published, as well as stimulating the reporting of difficult issues.

It all began in October 2001 when Counterpart International commissioned Bevan Springer with a mandate to mount the first CMEx. Since then there have been full versions (3-4 days) in North Coast, Jamaica (3), Bahamas (2), Barbados (1), St. Lucia (2) and Puerto Rico (2) and shorter versions (1 day), CMExPress, in Kingston, Jamaica (2), Antigua (1), New York (1), Trinidad & Tobago (1). The CMEx model was also been merged into a conference in Dominican Republic and is in demand in the Far East, the Mediterranean, Central and South American and East Africa.

Bevan and his local teams have shepherded the process to sustainable success as was indeed witnessed at the recently concluded CMEx X in Puerto Rico. It
was extremely reassuring when, on the opening night, Terestella González-Denton, Executive Director of the Puerto Rico Tourism company, in her welcome remarks, confirmed that Puerto Rico will be again willing to host another CMEx event in 2008. There are two other CMEx events scheduled for Barbados and St Lucia in 2007 and interest has been expressed for the fuller version in Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago and for the shorter version in Haiti and St Maarten in 2008.

Increasing emphasis has been placed on the youth at CMEx and after dynamic youth remarks from Ada M. Alvarez Conde from Puerto Rico and Charmaine Joseph from St. Lucia, I was moved to comment, as moderator of the session, that the future of the Caribbean is in good hands. This youth dynamic was borne out time and time again during CMEx X to the extent that they now want to have a young people’s CMEx which could lead to a Caribbean Youth Forum. These are our future leaders and we trust that they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

The Smart Partnership philosophy was fundamental to the success of CMEx X. Delphine Rosario, the Puerto Rico Tourism Company’s local coordinator is evidence of this. The local hoteliers and tourism service providers are evidence of this. Continental Airlines and LIAT are evidence of this.

There was a session entitled “CMEx at Work” where Marsha Branch and Jerry Blenman from Barbados showed how CMEx networking can lead to entrepreneurial development. They met Doug Hoyte at CMEx a year ago and out of this has grown a Television Series “The Investor” produced by Marsha’s company Avant Garde Media. At CMEx, participants are encouraged to exchange as many business cards as possible in speed networking mode. There were 120 registered participants from the Caribbean, North America and Europe. If we do a quick combinatorial calculation, it will reveal that the number of potential pairs of relationships among participants is in excess of 7000. Let us assume that one percent of these result in new business ideas between CMEx X participants, this means over 70 potential business opportunities per CMEX event. CMEx then, in addition to the impact mentioned above, becomes a veritable business idea generator in the tourism, tourism linkage and other sectors.

One indicator of an event’s success is the feedback obtained from participants. Here is an extract from Charmaine Joseph’s message entitled “An experience of a lifetime” – “Though this is my second CMEx, this one has left such a more powerful impact than the last one. I sat there astounded at how powerful and educational the last few days have been.” Jerry Blenman, reflecting his commitment to the process shared as follows: “Congratulations on yet another very stimulating CMEx. This particular CMEx was a remarkable experience for me. Attached is a proposed model, which can be considered
for creating a singular focus for participants and related entities involved in and supportive of the effort of CMEx”.