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The island nations of the Caribbean have long known about the income to be derived from tourism. Recently, they have become aware that they have not only tropical beaches to exploit but also natural, cultural, and historical attractions that are being visited by more and more tourists even before they are developed. When development does occur, if it is done with proper care and effective marketing, these sites can earn millions of tourist dollars for a Caribbean nation.

Sustainable tourism development requires that projects be financially independent and profitable. The profits should feed back into local economies. However, as national governments, site and service owners, borrowers, and lenders all recognize, there has been a lack of specific policies to guide the growth of nature and heritage tourism-and in particular, its financing. This is one of the areas singled out for consideration by the Caribbean Development Bank, which is coordinating efforts to examine the issues concerning tourism in the region in general. Since this kind of tourism has long been of interest to the Organization of American States, for its double potential of contributing to national economic development and to environmental protection, the OAS was happy to respond to a request to undertake this part of the overall study and commissioned the Inter-American Investment Corporation to collaborate. As the private-sector financing arm of the Inter-American Development Bank, the IIC provided valuable input from the perspective of entrepreneurs.

The best prospects for financing nature and heritage tourism in the Caribbean lie in arrangements for cooperation among international lending agencies, governments, and the private sector, including non-profit conservation organizations. With this study, the OAS and the IIC present practical recommendations and useful insights that may help to propel the development of this important new industry.

Kirk P. Rodgers
Department of Regional Development
and Environment

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