The Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism Conference (ESTC) 2011 commenced on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina this morning bringing participants together from 21 countries around the world.
The conference opened with songs sung by a traditional Gullah (West African) singing troupe followed by a moment of Zen led by a local yoga and meditation expert. The rather relaxed audience of approximately 450 then listened to presentations given by Mayor Laughlin as well as other local history dignitaries and convention visitor bureau managers about the unique sustainable tourism history and ecosystems of Hilton Head Island.
From its roots as envisioned by Charles Fraser more than 60 years ago, Hilton Head Island has endeavored to enforce land-use development policies that preserve nature, provide recreation for all ages, and exemplify sustainable building design.
After the plenary, participants choose from four sessions to kick off the conversations and debates including panel question and answer discussions about marine and coastal area conservation, the world of travel media, ecotourism destination management, and trends in mass tourism.
Day 1 concluded with a reception for Stanley Selengut, the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award given by the International Ecotourism Society (TIES). Stanley Selengut is a civil engineer and is recognized by many in the tourism industry as the father of sustainable resort development after he created the Maho Bay Camps and Estate Concordia Preserve on St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands. His presentation will open Day 2 of the conference, which continues through Wednesday.