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A. National Governments
B. Non-governmental Organizational (NGOs)
C. Private Sector

All the players in the development of nature and heritage tourism are constrained: government by the lack of competitive managerial capacity; financial intermediaries by a concern for risk, unfamiliarity with the sector, and the exigencies of the money market; private developers by a lack of capital, the absence of title or lease rights to the site, and the need for training in the preparation and presentation of feasibility studies; and NGOs by a lack of capital and public support. However, with proper coordination, what each of these three groups lacks could be provided by the other two.

Caribbean governments have traditionally had access to grant and soft-loan funds, which are inaccessible to private sector investors. However, very often these governments do not have the technical skills or entrepreneurial drive of profit to fully utilize these funds. NGOs, on the other hand, often have the expertise required to develop nature and heritage tourism ventures, but lack the funding basis to become fully established. It seems, therefore, that governments and the private sector should consider some joint venture, thus allowing the country to optimize whatever benefits may accrue from that partnership.

A. National Governments

In the Caribbean, for historical reasons, the state has been a major landowner, particularly of unimproved lands. The state is also the traditional guardian of a nation’s natural resources. Governments tend to fund the operation of their public sites and protected areas, particularly national parks. National governments offer financial support for nature and heritage tourism sites in most cases, either directly or via grants from donor agencies. Most of the areas of outstanding beauty, scientific interest, and historical significance are in the government’s purview or have been bequeathed to parastatal bodies, like national trusts or NGOs.

Some Caribbean governments have awakened to the potential of nature and heritage development. In 1992, the Government of Dominica identified twelve sites for potential development as tourist attractions and secured a loan of up to US$4 million from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) to undertake an independent evaluation of the sites and make recommendations as to their development potential. Dominica, the most rugged of all the Caribbean islands, has earned the nickname “Nature Island” because of its lush, green mountains, its virgin forest, and its unique and enduring natural setting. The CDB is evaluating the report to assess the viability of funding a project.

The Barbados Ministry of Tourism recently contracted for an inventory of its nature-based tourist attractions as part of an overall tourism development plan. The inventory, paid for with an Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) grant, has identified more than sixty sites of natural beauty and historic interest. In addition, the study establishes the requirements for a feasibility study of developing a network of such attractions. The intent is to package the projects for development funding.

The Jamaica Conservation and Development Trust is involved in national park development, and has hosted seminars and workshops aimed at increasing awareness and knowledge of nature tourism. The Jamaican Ministry of Tourism shares the responsibility for the promotion and development of nature and heritage tourism with other public and private entities. The National Heritage Trust (NHT), created thirty years ago by an act of Parliament, has received assistance from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to carry out heritage and conservation initiatives. The trust has inventoried historic sites and monuments and can authorize changes to heritage resources; a US$5 million project is under consideration to restore military barracks in Spanish Town, the former administrative capital.

Jamaican Government authorities are also working with an NGO to restore historic properties (see page 13). This is an initiative that could be successfully replicated in other nations, as national governments tend to be proprietary about the preservation of historic structures or areas. For several reasons - a fear that natural or historic areas will be damaged or destroyed, a lack of administrative capacity to oversee such work, or the lack of a legal framework to allow the transfer of ownership or operation of natural and historic areas-national governments are reluctant to entrust the private sector or NGOs with national treasures, even though they may wither from neglect as government dollars are spent on more pressing needs. Governments would benefit by allowing the private sector to become involved and NGOs to have greater leeway in such efforts, while overseeing the efforts through a rehabilitation or historic preservation office.

The Government of Trinidad and Tobago allocates responsibility for nature and heritage projects across several governmental bodies. Integrated regional development plans, such as the Eastern Northern Range Plan and tourism sector development plans, have identified sites of natural and historical interest.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Lands and Marine Resources has earmarked large sums of money for the development and maintenance of most of the undeveloped land. This includes three major forested areas of the northern, central, and southern ranges of Trinidad and the wetlands of both islands. The Ministry allocated US$45 million in 1993 and US$43 million in 1994 for the development and maintenance of these areas. Some of these funds were for maintenance of the flora, fauna, and other elements of the natural environment.

The Wildlife Section of Trinidad and Tobago’s Forestry Division is concerned with practical management of wildlife habitat within wildlife sanctuaries and elsewhere, especially for species requiring special protection measures, and to permit and encourage use on a sustainable basis. This includes issuing permits for hunting, the production of educational materials, opportunities for scientific studies, public education on wildlife conservation, and field tours. With the exception of hunting license and permit fees, all services are offered free of charge by the government. However, since the Wildlife Section does not conduct enough tours, private tour operators earn an estimated US$84,650 annually. Wildlife Section representatives estimate it would bring in some US$167,000 every year if it were allowed to charge fees for these services.

The legislative authority for Tobago, the Tobago House of Assembly (THA), has identified ecotourism as the foundation on which the island’s tourism industry is to be developed. It has regulated access to the Main Ridge Forest Reserve and developed a recreational park at Fort Granby, the first phase of which was completed in 1992 at a cost of US$50,000. Expansion plans call for incorporating wetland areas and building an interpretative center and additional facilities. Other activities were implemented at an approximate cost of US$390,000. Future projects in Tobago include nature camps, the first of which is scheduled to be built at Bloody Bay for between US$170,000 and US$335,000. The authority also has plans to map and clear nature trails throughout the island, erecting signs and rest stations. These nature trails are intended to provide a cross-island network linking major sites and attractions. A final project being planned is the establishment of restricted marine parks under the Marine Preservation and Enhancement Act of 1970.

In 1987, the THA initiated the Tobago Heritage Festival to educate Tobagonians about their own past and to provide non-Tobagonians with an appreciation of the island’s history and culture. Permanent heritage villages have been created at Studley Park and Mount St. George to reflect the social, cultural, religious, and economic lives of the people of Tobago. Funds for the festival come from the THA’s central government subsidies and from the sponsorship of individual events by business organizations such as chambers of commerce. In 1992, the THA provided US$280,000 for the festival; business sponsorship amounted to US$30,000. The THA also plans to construct the island’s first historic and cultural theme park on forty-nine acres of land adjacent to the best-preserved fortification-Fort King George. This project is expected to cost between US$220,000 and US$500,000.

Steelpan drums and calypso are born of Trinidad and Tobago, created by grassroots musicians. Carnival is Trinidad’s major tourism season, when the air is suffused with the sounds that have been adopted throughout much of the Caribbean. The Trinidadian Carnival and steelpan and calypso music have been emulated throughout the Caribbean, and have spread to North America and Britain. The tradition warrants separate funding. One of the problems faced by steelpan players is that they must compete with electronic sound systems, which are often louder and more portable. Although no specific financing estimates are readily available, steelpan drums as a heritage tourism attraction will require significant financing in the future. At present, steel bands are sponsored by one or more business enterprises.

In a bold move to commit itself to tourism development as a national objective, Trinidad and Tobago announced recently that local investors (individuals and corporations) in tourism development projects will be allowed to claim 25 percent of their equity investment as tax- deductible expenses. In addition, the Tourism Development Authority (TDA) is planning to allocate US$12.5 million to create a new organization that would merge the Tourism Development Agency and the Industrial Development Corporation. The Agency is currently under the umbrella of the TDA, but its independence would place even greater emphasis on tourism in Trinidad and Tobago.

While the state is a major factor in the disposition or use of land in the Caribbean, tourism is a service industry that almost without exception has been managed most competitively and efficiently by the private sector. Government-operated nature and heritage sites are usually not profitable. In Barbados, the few significant areas of natural forest are under government control and managed by the National Conservation Commission. At Turner’s Hall Woods, Folkstone Underwater Park and Museum, Gun Hill Signal Station, Farley Hill National Park, and Joe’s River Tropical Rain Forest no cost recovery mechanisms are in place. A nominal admission fee is charged, but the fees barely cover the attendants’ salaries. Nor do the attractions earn enough revenue to cover their operating costs.

At the famous Harrison Caves in Barbados, on the other hand, income from entrance fees, souvenir sales, and a restaurant is used to operate and maintain this natural attraction. This sensitively developed natural area includes a series of beautiful subterranean caverns complete with stalactites and stalagmites and underground streams and waterfalls. Annual operating costs amount to approximately US$1 million. About 200,000 people a year visit the caves, resulting in revenues of US$1.5 million. Charging admission can make the difference as to whether the attraction will be self-sufficient or dependent on governmental subsidies.

Governments have traditionally been successful in obtaining financing from international assistance agencies, though such assistance must always be directed towards a self-sustaining economy. They may also gain access to “soft fund” windows made available by international financing institutions such as the CDB and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). There are usually no a priori restrictions on access to these funds, and the only criterion is that beneficiary projects be economically and financially viable. However, some countries may have difficulty obtaining grant funding and gaining access to some of the traditional “soft fund” sources.

The IDB is providing funds for technical cooperation for the preparation of a tourism development plan for Trinidad and Tobago. The Government will hire consultants to produce a US$30 million action plan. The goal is to develop a tourism program involving the installation of basic infrastructure. This would promote investment in tourism facilities and the establishment of nature and heritage tourism projects. The executing agency is the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Tourism. The IDB is also reviewing two requests from the Government of Barbados: a US$40 million urban rehabilitation program and a US$16 million nature and heritage tourism development project. Both projects are sponsored by the government through executing agencies - the Barbados National Trust, the Environment/National Conservation Commission, and the Ministry of Tourism.

On the Netherlands Antilles island of Saba, the Saba Marine Park is an ecotourism success story. The park was established in 1987 at a cost of approximately US$300,000 with funds primarily from the WWF-Holland, the Prince Bernard Foundation, the local governments of the Netherlands Antilles, and the Dutch Government. Fund-raising has been focused on revenues from user fees, souvenir and guidebook sales, and donations. There is also a Friends of Saba Marine Park organization to solicit private donations. In 1988, approximately US$10,000 was collected from 2,100 divers. Over the years, the number of divers using the park has increased much faster than had been expected. In the first six months of 1992, a total of 2,300 divers made 9,200 dives. The dive fee was raised to US$2 per dive, yielding direct-use revenues of approximately US$17,500. Combined with another US$2,500 from a recently introduced yachting fee, this has made the park entirely self-supporting.

A common complaint of private-sector investors concerns the lack of government incentives for nature and heritage tourism ventures. There needs to be more recognition on the part of government that such ventures are in the national interest. In Barbados, for example, the Hotel Aids Ordinance provides incentives for tourism developments, but no allowances for nature and heritage projects. The Barbados Wildlife Reserve was unable to get a waiver of the import duty on a water pump donated by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). Its request for a waiver of the duty on importing recycled plastic lumber to build picnic furniture in the Grenade Hall Forest was also turned down.

A further problem with government incentives is that larger developments tend to receive preferential treatment, perhaps because they appear to be more beneficial. But smaller projects are often very important to local economies and should therefore be given equal consideration.

Private-sector entrepreneurs developing a project in Barbados that offers horseback rides, walking trails, and tram rides through the countryside received US$15,000 in assistance and spent US$175,000. Government incentives in the form of waiver of duties on materials were inconsequential, the developers said, as most of the materials used were obtained locally. This is likely to be true for most nature tourism developers, who try to use indigenous materials.




land ownership

lack drive for profit

access to international funds

competing interests for funds

environmental policy, employees, and funds to hire specialists

ability to enact policy

B. Non-governmental Organizational (NGOs)

A number of NGOs operate nature and heritage attractions, for which they receive donor assistance, membership dues, and user fees. They tend to have great difficulty with financing because they are reliant on membership fees and do not have access to government funds, and because the purpose of many NGOs is preservation and conservation, rather than profit.

Funding from international development banks is not always available to NGOs or private individuals. This limitation is often the result of inadequate incentives for private-sector development. Most of the funding received by NGOs comes from donor agencies and national governments, primarily for feasibility studies and research. NGOs are also somewhat dependent financially on membership dues and the local and regional private sector.

In Barbados, the Government has granted responsibility for the preservation of its heritage to the Barbados National Trust and the Barbados Museum and Historical Society, which restores historic buildings and other places of interest. As part of an IDB feasibility study to identify sites for nature and heritage tourism development, the National Trust, the Barbados Museum, and the private Garrison Committee devised a list of sites and historic properties they would like to restore. These include some historic forts, museum buildings, homes of historical figures (such asthe residence of Barbados’ first Prime Minister, Tyrol Cot), and the Sugar Machinery Museum2. The estimated total cost of the projects is US$7 million.

²The Sugar Museum was recently opened to the public. The Director of the National Trust indicated that funding for restoring the museum had come from corporate sponsors - US$60,000 from Mount Gaye Distillers and US$50,000 from other corporations. The museum reflects the history of sugar processing and features an old and a modem sugar factory. According to the executive director, the trust needs another US$50,000 to complete repairs and refurbish the museum.
The Barbados National Trust owns Andromeda Gardens, Welchman Hall Gully, and the Barbados Primate Research Center and Wildlife Reserve. Although it receives some government subsidies, it is dependent on user fees at several of the properties, as well as membership dues, sales of publications, and grants from donor agencies and the local private sector. The total financing available to the Trust, either for specific activities (research, infrastructure repairs, renovations to properties) or for general institutional support, is inadequate. It has a long list of properties it would like to restore.

The Barbados Primate Research Center and Wildlife Reserve functions independently and successfully by charging user fees and exporting and selling monkeys for medical research and for producing the much-needed Sabin oral polio vaccine. In 1992, Research Center sales were US$279,328, and income from entrance fees and restaurant operations totaled US$327,786. The Reserve receives 75,000 to 100,000 visitors annually and is one of the first successful ecotourism efforts in Barbados. Barbados’ flora and fauna are on view at several sites, including an animal sanctuary with a large collection of green monkeys (native to Barbados), as well as deer, otter, tortoises, caimans, and a wide assortment of exotic birds. Over the years, the Reserve has received funding from several donors to support its research work on monkeys, and particularly for its Monkey Crop Damage Control Program.

The Center was established in 1985 with seed money from CIDA. In 1992 the Reserve received a CIDA grant to purchase a water pump after a dam was built on one of the gullies on the property. Some 300,000 gallons are collected each year in a catchment area and pumped, using solar-powered photovoltaic cells, to a reservoir adjoining the facilities. The water is used to clean the cages and for irrigation purposes, thus supplying the reserve with most of the water it needs. Over the past ten years, the Reserve has received about US$90,000 in grants from CIDA to support various research projects. Since its inception, it has received no direct government support either as subsidies or in the form of tax waivers. In fact, the Trust complained that duties were charged on the water pump when it arrived in Barbados.

The Wildlife Reserve has plans to expand further by constructing a large inland pond and rookery to reintroduce the brown pelican, which has been extinct in Barbados for over 50 years. These plans are on hold until the organization’s funding base is expanded.

The Grenade Hall Signal Station and the Grenade Hall Forest are NGO ventures that were financed by a commercial bank and a financial agency. The Signal Station is the restored ruins of an 1819 structure that was part of a communication system unique in the Caribbean: a string of towers that could transmit line-of-sight messages across the island. Visitors enjoy an in-depth account of the historical records of signal stations in Barbados and England, and insight into communication before the invention of the telephone. From the top of the station there is a panoramic view of the entire island. The Grenade Hall Forest, an eight-acre forest with over fifty species of trees and other plants, offers visitors an informal adventure while learning about the environment. More than a kilometer of educational trails explain the delicate balance of the ecosystem. All benches, tables, roofs, doors, and cabinets are made of recycled plastic lumber, showing visitors that there is no need to destroy trees to develop a tourist attraction.

To restore the Signal Station and expand the Forest, the owners secured two loans totaling US$425,000. The $175,000 commercial bank loan was obtained at a rate of interest between 12 and 16.5 percent. The other loan was from a financial agency at a rate of 10 percent for up to US$171,000 of the US$250,000 total, and 13 percent on the remaining balance. The loans are secured by a US$365,000 first mortgage on the property of one of the directors. The loan from the financing agency was made available under the Industrial Credit Fund established by the Central Bank of Barbados out of funds secured from the World Bank, and was earmarked to assist with infrastructure expenses for new projects. The loan is for ten years with a two-year grace period on the principal. The managers are confident that the newly opened Forest Reserve and the Signal Station can attract an increased number of visitors bringing in enough revenue to offset the cost of the borrowed funds.

NGOs in Trinidad and Tobago have also preserved historic buildings, such as the Stollmeyer Castle, located on the northwestern comer of the Queen’s Park Savannah and one of the “Seven Sisters” of historical buildings. The Seven Sisters occupy one block and include the century-old Queen’s Royal College, the country’s first secondary school, and the residence of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Trinidad and Tobago.

There are two significant non-governmental initiatives in Trinidad that have had an explicit environmental focus. These are the Asa Wright Nature Center (AWNC) in the Arima Valley of the Northern Range, and the Point-à-Pierre WildFowl Trust on the southwestern coast within the compound of the country’s major oil refinery. The AWNC is a 191-acre former family estate that was sold in 1967 to protect part of the Arima Valley in its natural state so that it would be available for future generations. The AWNC derives its revenue from four main sources, chief among them are about 8,000 day visitors a year, who pay a fee of US$6, generating revenues of approximately US$48,000. Stayover visitors make up the second-largest group; 600 to 800 visit annually at a daily fee of US$105, generating income of between US$63,000 and US$84,000 a year. Rent paid by the WildFowl Trust for a research station rental at the Center yields approximately US$7,000 a year and the rest comes from grants and donations. The major recent contributor has been the U.S. oil company Amoco, which has been contributing US$3,000 a year. A few domestic companies also contribute a few hundred dollars a year.

The main objectives of the Point-à-Pierre WildFowl Trust are research and education. The Trust has successfully bred endangered wildfowl species and reintroduced them to their natural habitat. Its most recent success was breeding the scarlet ibis, a small, rare bird indigenous to Trinidad and Tobago. This was a significant development since all evidence indicates that the scarlet ibis is no longer breeding in its natural habitat, the Caroni wetlands. Educational efforts have been directed at school-age children, to teach the value of the environment and wetlands.

Although the Trust was not set up to support ecotourism, many foreign and even Trinidadian visitors are using its facilities for ecotourism purposes. The Trust is funded by US$17,000 in membership dues from its 2,000 members, an annual grant of US$6,000 from the Petrotrin Oil company (in whose compound the Trust is located), and entrance fees. The Trust has also received extraordinary grant funding from international institutions. The OAS provided a US$15,000 grant and engaged consultants. The IDB provided US$95,000. Both grants were earmarked for capital projects and educational/ research efforts, but will come to an end shortly. The Trust is therefore seeking funding from other international institutions. The oil company also provides water, electricity, and security, together with some engineering services, for a fee of TT$1 a year. A number of other institutions and individuals also provide veterinary and engineering services. A small and variable income is also provided by entrance fees and the sale of souvenirs.

In Jamaica, as was said above, an NGO - The Tourism Action Plan (TAP) - is working with government officials to set up a Heritage Trade Company to restore historic sites throughout the island. TAP, which receives support from both the private and the public sectors, is soliciting contributions from national merchant banks, and its representatives expect approximately US$500,000 in contributions.

Non-Governmental Organizations



main interest is often conservation

lack of continuous funding

have employees dedicated to cause

lack of drive for profit, seek to break even

have networks of knowledgeable contacts

C. Private Sector

Privately owned nature and heritage sites tend to be dependent on owner equity, gate receipts, and commercial banks for their funding. Private-sector development projects receive minimal support from governments themselves. They must therefore seek loans. Many areas that have the potential to become major natural or heritage tourist attractions need substantial amounts of funds for restoration and other works, but private owners may not have the equity to undertake the required investments. High interest rates are one of the most significant barriers they encounter. They also may have difficulty meeting cash-flow requirements to service high-interest loans, given low initial returns and/or their dependence on entrance fees. In addition, the inability of banks and other lenders to perceive the future drawing power of natural and historic sites when appraising projects limits their valuation of collateral.

Debt-for-nature swaps, which have become popular in parts of Central America and Jamaica, are not practical in the eastern Caribbean since very few of these countries have any significant private-sector debts.

Most of the nature and heritage tourism ventures in Barbados are privately owned and receive little or no government subsidy. They include Flower Forest, Oughterson Zoo Park, and Freshwater Reef - Atlantis Submarines and the recently opened Highland Outdoor Tours. In all these projects, revenues fully cover the cost of operation.

Highland Outdoor Tours offers horseback ides, long walks, all-day hikes, and tractor drawn tram rides to enable tourists to experience the beauty of the hills, gullies, and farmlands of St. Thomas and St. James parishes. The developers have spent US$175,000 on preparing trails, acquiring vehicles, constructing the Highland Tour Center, a restaurant, and several bamboo huts. Opened in February 1994, the project was funded entirely by individuals, with the help of US$10,000 from the Barbados Tourism Authority and US$5,000 from the Tourism Development Cooperation to assist with promotion and marketing.

One of the few privately owned and operated ecotourism hotel projects in Jamaica is the Maya Lodge, located on sixteen acres in the Blue Mountains. Its facilities can accommodate fifty people.

The project’s sponsors have invested approximately US$500,000 in land, equipment, and facilities. A project to build ten additional cabins to accommodate twenty more guests is under consideration. However, lack of financing from commercial or public sources has crippled the owners’ progress.

Private Sector



Profit is crucial

lacks access to funding

may lack commitment to long-term conservation; may sacrifice preservation for profit

lacks ability to effect change in regulatory arena

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