The Dominican Republic Will Host the 2022 FCCA Cruise Conference – Magnetic Media
#SANJUAN, Puerto Rico (June 21, 2022) – At a critical time for economies and the ocean, The Nature Conservancy, the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association and the United Nations Environment Programme joined forces to create, for the first time in the Caribbean, a guide to coral reef restoration designed specifically for the tourism sector.
The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA), along with the Caribbean Alliance for Sustainable Tourism (CAST) – which CHTA founded in 1997 to assess the tourism industry’s readiness, needs and willingness to play a more proactive role in managing, protecting and improving coral reefs throughout the Caribbean – teamed up on the groundbreaking collaboration. The guide was developed following months of surveys and discussions with Caribbean tourism industry stakeholders.
“TNC, UNEP, CHTA and CAST developed these new guidelines because we recognized that the tourism sector has an excellent opportunity to amplify coral conservation,” says Ximena Escovar-Fadul, TNC’s Senior Associate, Ocean Planning and Mapping. “In response to the coral reef crisis, there has been a shift on the part of tourism businesses and consumers toward more sustainable travel options. Beyond this ‘do no harm’ mindset, there is an increasing interest in travel activities that can proactively help nature. For example, travelers want to know how they can offset their carbon emissions or take part in restoring the environments that bring them joy when visiting a destination, like coral reefs.”
Coral reefs support economic stability and human well-being across the globe, but the link between these ecosystems and communities is especially significant, and facing grave risk, in the Caribbean today. Half of all livelihoods in the region depend on marine resources. To create the tourism-centered coral restoration guide, it was fundamental to collect input from people whose businesses or income depend on healthy coral reefs. Interviews, surveys and focus groups were conducted with stakeholders across more than 20 Caribbean countries and territories, incorporating multiple tourism sub-sectors to capture a wide array of perspectives – including transportation and accommodations, food and beverage, ocean and beach recreation, and others.
“Coral reefs and the important ecosystem services they provide are critical for economies and communities throughout the wider Caribbean. They generate more than US$8 billion per year for the tourism industry, but they are under serious threat. It is estimated that over half of the live coral in the region has been lost in the last 50 years,” explains Ileana Lopez, Regional Coordinator – Biodiversity and Ecosystems, UNEP’s office for Latin America and the Caribbean. “The restoration of degraded coral reef ecosystems is only possible when political and financial support, scientific innovation and active participation of local stakeholders is combined.”
CHTA President Nicola Madden-Greig believes now is a particularly important time for tourism to play a vital role in ocean conservation. She explains, “Tourism in the Caribbean, and around the world, suffered a devastating downturn with the pandemic. But as the industry regains its footing, there is a key window of opportunity to attract a wider group of consumers and protect the resources tourism depends on by offering sustainable travel options and engaging in meaningful conservation. This is where guidance from our conservation partners becomes pivotal. Many tourism businesses are adopting a sustainable approach and would like to actively contribute to coral conservation, but they don’t have the technical expertise. Or they completed a pilot reef restoration project but lack the capacity to scale up the work. As we continue to share scientific research and best practices, and to address the conservation challenges facing the tourism sector, CHTA and CAST aim to transform travel in the Caribbean, so it not only exists in harmony with our natural world but also benefits it.”
CAST Chairman Jamaican hotelier Kyle Mais; CAST founding co-Chairman and Chairman of Grupo Puntacana in the Dominican Republic, Frank Rainieri; and Jake Kheel, Vice President of Fundación Grupo Puntacana, a nonprofit entity of Grupo Puntacana and regional pioneer in coral restoration, agreed that coral restoration is rapidly evolving and needs an “all hands on deck” approach to scale up the much-needed recovery of the Caribbean’s coral reefs. They support A Guide to Coral Reef Restoration for the Tourism Sector as a crucial tool that shares experiences and best practices to empower the tourism industry to participate more actively in reef conservation and expand the region’s ability to restore coral reefs.