#Providenciales, September 30, 2019 – Turks and Caicos –In order for Turks and Caicos beaches to gain the coveted Blue Flag status there are critically important benchmarks to first be achieved and then maintained each year.
Under four overarching categories, the qualifications and expectations are listed and include a public education campaign about beach use, that water quality must be proven as healthy, coral reefs have to be monitored and there must be adequate safety measures including lifeguards.
In March this year, Tourism Minister, Ralph Higgs explained that the Turks and Caicos is in hot pursuit of this prestigious distinction for its ‘Beautiful by Nature’ beaches.
“Turks and Caicos is an exceptional place and as the world discovers Turks and Caicos, the world is loving Turks and Caicos and so my government is being proactive in terms of taking steps to enhance environmental awareness to protect our sites and I think we will start, hopefully with about four or five sites that easily accessible, easily manageable and then it will expand throughout the length and breadth of the Turks and Caicos,” said Minister Higgs at a news conference to inform on the undertaking.
Tourism Risk Manager for the TCI, Brian Been is the lead on the Blue Flag dream for the islands.
The Foundation of Environmental Education or FEE manages the Blue Flag programme.
During that news conference, held at the Office of the Premier in Providenciales, Lourdes Diaz, FEE Regional Manager explained the process will be thorough and it may take up to two-years to secure the first of the Blue Flags.
Supporting the FEE visit to the Turks and Caicos back in March was Director of Sustainable Planning for The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, Earlston McPhee, who said: “A part of the Blue Flag program is that you have to be recertified every year, so you don’t get there and its done; every year you have to be recertified and the national jury who would ensure that the standards are kept at a high level will be visiting, sometimes a surprise visit to the site to ensure the standard remains very high.”
Currently, the Dominican Republic is the only Caribbean country on the 2019 list of Blue Flag beaches in the world. The DR has secured 25 Blue Flags according to the FEE website.
FEE insists that 61 percent of travelers are interested in knowing the quality of the water within which they and their family members will be swimming.
This statistic is obviously the driver for so much focus on Blue Flag sites displaying ‘bathing water quality’ and ensuring compliance with FEE standards on microbiological parameters like E.coli.
Requirements call for a beach that is clean, one which has a management committee, provision for recycling of solid waste, plans for dealing with traffic, transport to the beach, oversight of events held at the beach, sufficient receptacles and the qualifying site should have enough clean toilets with controlled sewage disposal.
Access by feral and domestic animals to a Blue Flag site must be controlled and there must be a plan to deal with pollution accidents. It is also important for there to be handicap access to the Blue Flag beach site.
Currently, Spain has the most ‘Blue Flag’ sites in the world; 566 beaches, 98 marinas and two boats.