11 Jun Ecotourism: Preserving Caribbean Biodiversity, Culture, and Economy
It’s no surprise that the majority of the Caribbean is fueled by the economic benefits of the tourism industry, with its beautiful scenery, vibrant people, and carefree atmosphere. Islands such as Saint Martin are sustained entirely by the tourism industry, whether by direct flights into the country or cruise ship ports. Each week an influx of eager tourists arrive on the island and flood all the trendy tourist areas. However, mass tourism can become a detriment to the culture and sustainability of these Caribbean islands, especially the vulnerable ones. Protecting the biodiversity of an island can assist in maintaining the longevity these islands have in the tourism business. This is where ecotourism comes into play — form of tourism focused on nature conservation, education and cultural observation.
What is Ecotourism?
The goal of taking an ecotourism vacation is nature exploration and education rather than luxury. When booking an ecotourism trip, most guests stay in lodges with LEAD certified infrastructure using less energy than other hotels on the island. Most lodge rooms are made with open floor plans and windows as well as fans for eliminating the use of excess energy. Don’t expect to stay in your room and watch a good movie, as you won’t see any electronic devices in any rooms. Ecotourism trips are filled with daily adventures from hiking trips, nature tours, surfing, snorkeling, kayaking and even wellness meditation and yoga.
How will this benefit the Caribbean?
Mass tourism has a harmful effect on an island’s surrounding environment. Ecotourism trips are smaller in size. Therefore, by only accepting a few people at a time, it slows down the deterioration of natural resources and habitats that make Caribbean islands’ unique. Large hotel chains are not only adding more pollution to the environment but natural environments are being eliminated to make room for more ocean view luxury accommodations.
Ecotourism heavily involves the native residents of the island. From providing them with more jobs to allowing them to lead out their own tourism business — not just with small souvenir shops but tours, activities and even lodging. With little technology and luxury amenity distractions eco-tourists are encouraged to spend their free time indulging in native cuisine, culture, and activities. This will open tourists’ eyes to more than just beautiful beaches but a beautiful culture as well.
Less people and less luxury amenities? How does that translate to more money for a region? While major chain hotels may make a surplus of money the majority of it does not go back to the people in the region. A major benefit of ecotourism is the economic freedom it gives to the Caribbean and other regions. Funds are used to build up and sustain the island rather than to a company’s headquarter office outside the Caribbean. In most regions, ecotourism packages run even more expensive than normal Caribbean vacations because of the exclusive activities, tours specifically catered to each group and the limited occupancy. Fortunately for those regions that are offering these trip options, it is becoming increasing popular. If we look at the bigger picture, giving the Caribbean region longevity and a sustainable future will prove to be more profitable as the region is preserved from year to year.
Islands such as Dominica, Virgin Islands, and Belize all have eco-lodges and ecotourism packages. Learn more about popular ecotourism destinations here.