The Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) is strengthening its collaboration with one of the world’s leading conservation organizations, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), to promote sustainable tourism throughout the Caribbean and bolster its efforts to keep the region’s waters healthy and thriving.
“The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed two years ago with TNC has represented a valuable relationship, and we want to expand our partnership to respond rapidly to the erosion of the region’s reef systems by combining our resources for coral restoration and conservation, along with initiatives to promote the growth of environmentally responsible tourism development,” said CHTA’s acting Chief Executive Officer and Director General, Vanessa Ledesma.
Since the launch of the collaboration, CHTA and TNC have worked together to design a vision for a regionwide sustainable tourism initiative to promote future investment in the protection and restoration of natural resources.
Dr. Rob Brumbaugh, Executive Director for The Nature Conservancy’s Caribbean Division, asserted: “Caribbean economies need tourism to prosper, and tourism in the region depends on a thriving natural world. Sustainable tourism can in fact help nature thrive. The Nature Conservancy is proud to continue our work with the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association to promote healthy coral reefs, beaches, mangroves and tropical forests. As the region works to recover from the pandemic’s economic fallout, it’s more important than ever to create a resilient future for the resources that make the Caribbean one of the most beautiful destinations in the world and for the people who depend on them.”
The renewed partnership includes a coral reef study to increase engagement by the tourism sector in coral restoration efforts, of which key findings and recommendations will be released later this year. Based on the results of the study, and with support from the United Nations Environment Programme, coral restoration guidelines designed specifically for the Caribbean tourism sector are in development. This is critical because, as a TNC-led study in 2019 revealed, Caribbean coral reefs generate US$7.9 billion per year from roughly 11 million visitors who interact with them directly through activities like snorkeling and scuba diving, or indirectly, by enjoying the beaches, eating seafood and swimming.
Ledesma stressed the significance of healthy coral reefs to the well-being of local communities and the tourism industry: “The direct connection between a healthy environment and tourism is illustrated by parrot fish, which help corals thrive by eating algae off of them, then excrete sand for our beautiful beaches – and without sandy beaches it would be much more difficult to attract tourists. In addition, healthy corals provide food for communities and play a key role in protecting coasts from erosion and storm damage.”
The partnership with TNC will enhance the sustainability of Caribbean tourism by communicating to CHTA members and other tourism stakeholders the importance of conserving the region’s valuable natural resources. Under the new three-year agreement, CHTA’s Caribbean Alliance for Sustainable Tourism (CAST) will expand its online knowledge and resource center geared towards providing practical information on research and training materials to support responsible and sustainable tourism industry practices. These resources will be made available online at caribbeanhotelandtourism.com.
“We want to educate our people as well as our visitors on the interconnectivity of the environment and the tourism economy,” Ledesma added. “This is particularly important in the wake of COVID-19, as the pandemic has given people time to contemplate the critical need to strengthen our natural environment as the tourism industry strives to recover and rebuild.”