Red Stripe, Yellow Curry and Green Hotels: Sustainable Tourism in Jamaica

By Bowe, Rebecca | E Magazine, January-February 2005 | Go to article overview

Red Stripe, Yellow Curry and Green Hotels: Sustainable Tourism in Jamaica


Bowe, Rebecca, E Magazine


Stroll barefoot along Jamaica's white sand beaches, get acquainted with dolphins in crystal-dear water, and ascend mystical mountain peaks through rainforest pathways. But before you arrive, make sure the place where you stay has made a commitment to preserving this biodiversity hot-spot for the future. Fortunately, recent efforts by hoteliers with a rare sense of foresight make that choice possible.

Tourism brings in 25 percent of Jamaica's gross national product, but it has also taken an environmental toll. Solid waste production, deforestation, wetland destruction, limited water accessibility for the locals and heightened greenhouse gas emissions are all linked to resort development.

According to a report released by the United Nations Environment Program and Conservation International, "Tourism development regularly takes place in a rapid and unplanned manner, resulting in total landscape transformation in a very short period of time." In Jamaica, this trend is beginning to reverse as the tourism industry begins to map out a sustainable future.

A Line in the Sand

"The fact is that Jamaica attracts people looking for what they have lost back at home: a clean green and blue environment," said Karen Ford-Warner, deputy secretary general of the Caribbean Tourism Organization, addressing a crowd at the Second Annual Green Tourism Conference in the city of Montego Bay. "But how much longer will we be able to sell our clean green and blue environment? Where is that fine line to be drawn in the sand between generating revenues and incurring social and environmental costs?"

The conference was hosted by the Environmental Audits for Sustainable Tourism project (EAST), a collaborative initiative funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which has sponsored environmental audits at more than 70 Jamaican hotels. These audits helped to prepare 29 Jamaican hotels for Green Globe Certification, which is an international stamp of approval granted to hotels that have successfully reduced their energy and water consumption, limited greenhouse gas emissions and taken steps toward resource conservation.

Hotels around the world now give guests the option not to have their sheets and towels washed daily, saving detergent and water. But some Jamaican hotels go further by installing energy-saving, low-flow showerheads, using greywater for landscape irrigation, composting food scraps, installing light and air-conditioning systems that shut off automatically when a room is empty and using solar energy. …

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