Eco South Tours Incorporated, an independent company in the south of the island was officially launched on Wednesday this week at the Mankote Mangrove Interpretation Centre in Vieux Fort. The company which emerged from the support of the St Lucia National Trust and the OPAAL Project aims to sell and promote tours within the Pointe Sable environmental protection area.
According to project coordinator, Anthony Sammie the tours would include horseback riding, sea moss demonstration, charcoal demonstration, fishing and native tours as well as Maria Island tours.
“The whole idea is for the resource users to get together to manage their resources themselves along with the St Lucia National Trust to promote Heritage Tourism in the South,” said Sammie.
The project coordinator added that going forward, one of the challenges they will be faced with is to get the resource users to manage the resources together in a sustainable fashion.
“Other challenges we may be faced with will be to develop the product to meet minimal Heritage Tourism standards and to engage in a proper marketing drive so that the tours are sold in an attractive package,” he said.
Sammie said the company along with the St Lucia National Trust will look at all available resource funding that would help keep this project running at least for the next three years until it can be sustained by itself. He says such resource programs such as the National Initiative for Creating Employment (NICE) will go a long way to providing jobs for the people in the south.
Chairman of Eco Tours and current secretary of the St Lucia National Trust, Cyril Saltibus says the launching symbolizes a change in the way St Lucia’s protected areas are managed and utilized by its people as a sustainable eco-tourism product. He says in the past, over-harvesting and over-fishing have rendered a limited number of plant, sea and animal life in the area. This he says will help in restoring an abundance of life in the area.
“What this company is doing is giving all the resources to its users under one umbrella and through the OPAAL project and the Environmental Protection Area allows them to manage the resources so that our children can have the opportunity to walk through these mangroves. They can still have a chance to see the different species, go diving to see all the corals that are not all dead but alive and well.
“At the same time, they need to generate funds so that they can feed their families ¬– to send their children to school. We can’t just sit back and do nothing but we must utilize the land in a sustainable way. That is why he Eco-Tours, under the umbrella of the St Lucia National Trust was formed to make sure that the resources are used properly and efficiently without destroying the protected areas as opposed to selling it off to some investor from another country,” said Saltibus.
Replying to whether the company, which has future plans to develop the area to be more tourist friendly and developing better facilities for its users will change the landscape, Saltibus says he will literally tie himself to a tree in the event it has to be cut down for this cause.
Prime Minister Dr Kenny Anthony, in his address says he supports this project fully and commits his Government to help and sustain it through resource programs such as NICE. He also urged the resource users to utilize the resources of the protected area in a responsible manner.
“I urge you to always be aware of your fundamental responsibility to manage the resources that you are dependent upon. The onus is on you, your families and your friends to individually and collectively be caretakers of these sites,” said Dr Anthony.
The Prime Minister who is also the Parliamentarian for Vieux Fort South alluded to his Government’s Blueprint for Growth and says the time has come to let the NDC focus primarily on investment and allow for the better management of the NDC lands with input from local stakeholders.

Chairman of Eco Tours and current secretary of the St Lucia National Trust, Cyril Saltibus.

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