First of all, how did it come to be that Bodhi Surf was involved in the Symposium?
Bodhi Surf received an email from Samantha Hogenson of the Center for Responsible Travel (CREST) on April 14, 2014 inviting Bodhi Surf to participate as a speaker in the 3rd Symposium for Innovators in Coastal Tourism. The event was hosted in Grenada, July 9 – 11, 2014 in partnership with the Grenada Tourism Authority, the Caribbean Tourism Organization, and Grenada’s Ministry of Tourism. We were invited, literally, because of our “extensive knowledge in responsible surf tourism, community-based initiatives, and sustainable coastal tourism”. CREST and their partners believed we would fit in perfectly to a workshop entitled “Responsible Coastal and Marine Recreation“.
How was the trip from Bahia Ballena to Grenada?
Although Costa Rica and Grenada appear to be very close on a map, in actuality, there are very few flight options to get there. In order to arrive to the conference, I had to first drive 3 hours from Bahia Ballena to San Jose, fly from San Jose to Miami, Florida and then take another flight from Miami to Grenada. Upon arriving in Florida there was a beautiful thunder storm rolling in and flights were delayed by around 2 hours so I wandered around the airport to get some exercise, both mental and physical. Finally, we started boarding and were seated. Next to me, on my right, was a young man who appeared to be making a Power Point presentation so I introduced myself. Lo and behold, I was sitting next to one of the keynote speakers, Jake Kheel, of Punta Cana Resort. Jake and I chatted for a solid hour about life in the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica and we immediately realized that we had a handful of things in common: most importantly, our desire to use tourism and business in general as a tool to make positive change happen. After a long day, we finally arrived in Grenada around 10pm where we were warmly greeted by officials of the Grenada Tourism Authority (with marimbas in the background and Grenadian snacks being served) and were taxied off to our hotels.
What were some of your impressions of Grenada?
Grenada felt alive. The people were amazing, full of energy and smiles. I’ve heard people make reference to Grenada as the Island of Spice, but never understood that in a metaphorical sense. I was only able to hit the streets in the evenings (yes, believe it or not I went out for a few drinks and live music), and took one day after the conference to travel the country with Grenada Adventure Tours and ended that day with a few rum and cokes at Fort Matthew — wow what an eerie place that was.
What was your day-to-day like at the conference?
The majority of my time 8 – 6pm was spent listening to Symposium attendees present their knowledge, best practices, innovations, ideas, skills, etc. The event was held at St. Georges University which sits on the edge of the Caribbean and boasts amazing views of a rugged rocky-portion of the Grenadian coastline. Overall, the activities were absolutely wonderful, with abundant opportunities for me to learn from and apply to Bodhi Surf. We also had time to network and share ideas during breaks, lunches, dinners, and after conference hours.
What did your presentation cover and how did it go?
Bodhi Surf presented on responsible surf tourism and our community-based initiatives, emphasizing how our combined efforts can help achieve a more sustainable coastal tourism model. We focused on the idea that small is beautiful, and that regardless of how small we are, we believe we can influence (and be a role model for) the people we come in contact with (guests, employees, suppliers, providers, etc.), our local community, and the environment. I discussed how Bodhi Surf utilizes the Marino Ballena National Park (a marine protected area) and that since we depend on the ocean as our playground for surfing experiences, it is only fitting that we give back by working to build awareness for important issues such as marine conservation. We shared some of secrets: our surf instruction model — “Awaken your inner surfer”, Ocean Guardian Pledge, Blue Marble alliance, Service & Surf Saturdays, Yoga for the Community, Ocean Guardian Journey, and Travelers’ Philanthropy Program. Overall, the presentation was a success, with some lighthearted comedy to kick it off… (thanks KUNA, for what not to do)! [youtube id=”PKIpCPS-oZc”]
The Grenada Spice Morning TV show was a blast. Samantha Hogenson invited us to speak, but didn’t share many details. Neither I nor CREST board member, Mike Robbins, really knew what we were diving into. On the drive up to the station we were afforded with some great views of the coast and city. We exchanged laughter, wondering what the next half hour was going to be like. Once inside the studio we were informed that “this is live morning broadcast”, and we both smiled at each other and then at the morning show host. She prepped us quickly (during a commercial) and then 3…2…1… we were on live Grenadian TV to talk a little about the Symposium and our overall thoughts about responsible coastal tourism. My final words were emphasizing the importance of the tourism industry to think deeply about how to effect change in visitors not only during their stay/experience but also afterwards, once they return home so they start their own journey to becoming more responsible citizens.
What were some of your takeaways from other presentations?
I thoroughly enjoyed all the presentations that I attended and definitely enjoyed the keynote speakers. Unfortunately, presentations aren’t enough to transfer knowledge and skills and the biggest takeaways were during the discussion sessions post presentations and the networking in-between sessions and during meals. At the end of the day it was the relationship-building with people that, for me at least, were the biggest takeaways. As such, I hope to collaborate with several of the speakers on how we (the responsible tourism industry) can help visitors/guests post vacation start their own journey toward becoming more responsible. We have a big opportunity to make positive change happen and I firmly believe the industry needs to take a deeper look at how we can help create responsible world citizens.
Any final words?
We are grateful that CREST recognized our commitment to a higher purpose and I on behalf of Bodhi Surf School truly enjoyed sharing our small meaningful accomplishments with others in the hopes that we can be change-makers in surf school tourism. We are motivated to share our best practices with others and look forward to presenting at other conferences when the opportunity arises!