The Caribbean Media Exchange on Sustainable Tourism (CMEx), which promotes sustainable tourism development among media practitioners and industry tourism stakeholders, believes that this week's deadly earthquake in Port-au-Prince is an opportunity for Caribbean countries to find innovative ways to help the survivors put their lives back together.

"The richer countries and international organizations are best equipped to deal with the urgent need for cash, medicines and earth-moving machinery," but CMEx director Lelei LeLaulu urged the "family of Caribbean nations to use their strengths to help Haiti re-build a stronger nation driven by a dynamic and resilient economy."

"The strength of the Caribbean is centered on tourism so the region should look for ways of using tourism to feed resources not only to the devastated areas, but also to communities in other parts of Haiti," he added.

"Effective recovery requires helping all parts of the country," opined LeLaulu, who recalled "Haiti was already suffering from an economic catastrophe before the earthquake leveled its capital. This is a golden opportunity for the region to step up and ensure its stricken sister nation is able to rise and to be an equal partner in the Caribbean community of nations."

The earthquake hit just as Haiti was starting to emerge from lawlessness and other social problems, and was beginning to attract visitors. Hotel groups like Choice Hotels International were preparing to add new properties on the island.

The U.S. State Department is urging Americans to avoid travel to Haiti but the CMEx director strongly suggested "
everybody should make future plans to travel to Haiti, not to get in the way of relief and reconstruction efforts, but to spend their tourist dollars in ways which help people and their communities ensure the recovery is a lasting one. The rich cultural heritage will make it an unforgettable experience for first-time visitors to Haiti."

Dr. Basil Springer, a CMEx founder and director declared, "Haiti's crisis provides an opportunity to lay a strong foundation on which to reduce the wealth divide; the regional and international travel and tourism community must also help to restore the glory of a nation to which we as Caribbean people will always be indebted in the struggle for independence.We must all urgently rally around and support the Haitian people in their thrust for socio-economic independence. Today, we are all Haitian."

"And, this is not a new nation - Haiti is the first independent black republic and indeed the second independent state in the Americas," he asserted.

CMEx provides a neutral platform for the continuing discussion of the key linkages between media, government, private sector and civil society in ensuring tourism enhances the health, environment, education, culture, and wealth of destinations in a climate-friendly fashion.

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