An initiative to offer support to seven tourist destinations in the Caribbean and Latin America was launched here Thursday.

The Sustainable Destinations Alliance for the Americas, or SDAA, represents the largest effort of its kind to date, the promoters said.

Each participating location will undertake an evaluation of destination management practices designed to recognize areas of strength and to identify areas with the greatest scope for improvement.

Sustainable Travel International, an NGO selected as the SDAA's implementation partner, will conduct assessments using its Rapid Destination Diagnostic tool, which provides a snapshot of sustainability status and a summary of destination management priorities.

"With the focus of this initiative on destination sustainability and management, we are strengthening our ability to assess issues that are critical to the competitiveness and destination product and to make targeted recommendations," Sherry Tross, the Organization of American States' executive secretary for Integral Development, said.

"For the OAS, it is important that these issues remain as an integral part of the sustainable tourism policy dialogue so we can respond effectively to the needs of our member states," she said.

"It's critical that companies look at ways they can have a positive impact in the places where they do business," Rich Pruitt, vice president of Safety and Environmental Stewardship at Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., said

It is hoped that the seven destinations taking part in the SDAA initiative will emulate the successful implementation of similar pilot programs in Cozumel, Mexico and Roatan, Honduras.

Organizers would like to expand the SDAA to include more than 30 destinations within the next few years, the Caribbean Tourism Organization said Thursday in a statement.

The SDAA includes the OAS, the Caribbean Tourism Organization, Sustainable Travel International, Royal Caribbean and the U.S. government. EFE