The Caribbean is one of the most visited places in the world. In fact, 25 million people visited one or more of the Caribbean Islands during last year. What most of those visitors don't realize or don't know is where the majority of their money is going. Last year alone, those 25 million visitors spent $28 Billion during their travels. Thats more than enough to keep the Caribbean travel economy alive but the Caribbean does not get all of that money, not even a good portion of that money. Of the $28 Billion that tourists spent on the islands, only $5.6 Billion stayed in the Caribbean! The other $22.4 Billion was leaked out to other foreign countries and the local people of the Caribbean never saw it. That $22.4 Billion is spent at places such as The Marriott, The Ritz, KFC, Wendy's, McDonalds, Dominos, and other places that are owned by companies outside of the Caribbean. That $5.6 Billion was spent on taxi's, local souvenir shops or diners, and many guided trips or local inns and bed and breakfasts. Remember that where you spend you money matters! We want to leave our tourist money in the places that we travel so that they can continue to flourish and keep their culture. BUY LOCAL! And continue to
Next time you visit the British Virgin Islands, consider a stay on Tortolla in Cane Garden Bay at Myett's Garden Inn. It has started a revolution, you might say, in the BVI's that will hopefully continue to grow. It is only the second resort to receive the Green Globe Certification within these islands which is considered a huge accomplishment. Agape Cottages was the first in the BVI's to receive the certification but Myett's has gone one step further in helping to develop the Sustainable Tourism Environmental Program (STEP).
STEP is dedicated to providing the tourism industry with the tools needed to educate employees and management about environmental practices and to help raise awareness for sustainable tourism. Myett's Garden Inn and the BVI Tourism Board have come together to create STEP in hopes of changing policies in more hotels throughout the BVI's. Along those lines, The Green Globe Certification (based out of California) has a long list of requirements with high standards in Sustainable Management, Social/Economy, Environment and Cultural Heritage.
Myett's Garden Inn has reached many of these requirements through Fair Trade and local purchases, Local Employment, Community Involvement, Employee training, Customer Satisfaction and Sustainable Design to name a few.
They have definitely done what they can to help the local community. First the majority of employees that they hire are locals. The also focus on trying to buy local products and materials first before importing which not only helps the local economy but also lowers costs as it cuts out the middle man or distributor. This allows for better distribution of money within the corporation, better pay for employees and lower costs for guests. Through the STEP program, the employees are also given education about being environmentally aware and improvements that can be made in their specific positions. Lastly, Myett's does what it can to give back to the community by always donating unused amenities to local charities.
The resort also incorporates other areas of tourism by getting guests and customers involved in "local environmental and community-related activities". They try to give the guests a true 'Island experience' by having nightly local live music and allowing and encouraging locals to come to the resorts bars and restaurants as well.
Last but not nearly least, Myett's puts a large effort into making their resort sustainable in more than one way. They have purchased as much eco-friendly product as possible - from as many local distributors as possible. They have created a waste system which allows them to do their own composting within the resort and they use it on their own green garden. Most importantly, they have taken it upon themselves to educate not only their employees on being environmentally aware but their guests as well. The management itself can never make all of the changes on their own but if all parties involved are aware and the majority make the effort, there can be a big change for the better.
Find out more about the Myett's Garden Inn at http://myetts.com/myetts-receives-green-globe-certification/.
And go explore the British Virgin Islands! They are beautiful!
As a world traveler, it is important to be aware of the businesses that are taking advantage of tourist or hurting the local environment versus businesses that are helping the community - economically and/or ecologically. Our foreign money/footprint can impact a region in a huge way so it is up to us to make responsible choices to help rather than hurt the communities that we love to visit.
Kirk Freeport is a locally owned retailer in two of the Cayman Islands - Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac. Many islands have similar retailers that own many of the stores on a specific Island but there is one unique thing about Kirk Freeport. The owner, Eldon Kirkconnell, is a local who is striving to keep businesses local to help the economy. He has helped pass a law to keep 55% of businesses locally owned, keeping more of the tourists money on the island. The company owns 22 stores on both of the islands and sells such things as watches, jewelry, and several other expensive gifts. They do a lot to give back to the community and strive to keep the locals involved.
Going on a cruise or flying in and staying on the Island, you will see "Kirk Freeport" on the majority of the businesses in the main tourist shopping centers as well as the local shopping markets. For the most part, everything spent at these Kirk Freeport shops stay in the local community so do what you can to keep it local by focusing your purchases at these marked shops. Before your trip, visit their website at www.kirkfreeport.net to learn about their shops and involvement with the Islands.
Another wonderful and new Eco-friendly business in the Caribbean is located in the Domincan Republic in one of the poorest communities among the Kalinago people. The Kwanari Ecolodge brings a slightly new look to the Caribbean with its cabin feel but keeps the culture and environment alive. This is what I believe sets this Ecolodge apart from the rest. The owners, Kasswebb Ltd., thought to put the lodges in a wonderful sight where the forest meets the ocean but they also thought to place it near a poor community where it could help boost their economy. The project has allowed local members to begin working in the tourism industry which not only supplies many with jobs but has also allowed the locals to revive their culture and share it with the world.
Beyond helping the economy, the true purpose of the Ecolodge is to allow visitors to see the beauty of the forest meeting the ocean without any serious damage to any of the surrounding natural habitat. To learn more about the Kwanari Ecolodge and the local Kalinago people of Dominica, visit the article on the ecotourism website at: https://www.ecotourism.org/news/kwanari-ecolodge-dominica-will-showcase-new-forest-caribbean-architecture.
It's important to support these organizations so we can help conserve these largely traveled environments. As travelers, we have been given the tools, resources, and options to help the places we want to visit. It is up to us to become informed and make the decision to use what we have been given to do what we can to support tourist communities. Hopefully by making these choices we can come back to an unchanged environment year after year and keep it that way for our children and friends.
It is difficult to generalize the locals in the Caribbean Islands seeing as the Caribbean consists of over 7,000 Islands within 28 different countries. However, there are quite a few similarities throughout the region for, at least, the majority. One similarity is the history. Many Islands were owned by European nations - mostly the Spanish, Dutch or British. They were largely populated by slaves brought in to run sugar cane factories, a difficult and strenuous job. In the early 1800's, slavery was mostly abolished in the Caribbean, particularly in the British-owned portions. However, this left the region in a poor economic state. The abolition of slavery took away the majority of the work force in sugar cane so the production all but came to a halt. Sugarcane was one of the few things the Caribbean had as a resource on the islands that they could export (not that they were receiving compensation for the production at the time). The islands in general do not have many natural resources and therefore have to spend large sums of money to import nearly everything they have - food, building materials, gas, etc. Therefore, the islands are consisting of mostly ancestors of poor slaves who don't have much to live off of without importing expensive resources. They do, however, have one saving grace - a beautiful landscape that makes the rest of worlds mouths water at the sight of it. The Caribbean is "Heaven on Earth" and that will make many people pay any price to see and experience it. The locals strive off of tourism and make a decent amount of their income from foreign visitors. The only problem is that other countries have discovered how much people will pay to visit these incredible islands and have decided they want a cut of the money. Large corporations from all over the world have set up shop in the islands and they get a large portion of the business that comes. If the locals aren't getting enough business, the unique local areas will shut down and it could potentially turn into the same type of shopping areas all around the world. Hopefully people will read this and decide to buy local when they visit these beautiful places and keep them unique.
For most part, the Caribbean islands live and thrive off of tourism. There is one problem, however. A large portion of the money brought in by tourists goes straight to their night’s stay in the Marriott Hotel and breakfast at McDonalds and dinner at Pizza Hut and the locals never see it. I love the outdoors and traveling so I would hate to see beautiful places and unique cultures conform to the rest of the world. Traveling is not the same without having somewhere unique to travel.