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Destination Guardian participant receiving training certificate

St. Kitts Destination Guardians

A collaborative training workshop that raises awareness around sustainable tourism and empowers Kittitians to act as Destination Guardians who take care of their island home.

It takes an island.

In St. Kitts, tourism is everyone’s business. In 2018, the industry contributed more than 25% of the country’s GDP and supported 1 in four jobs. One way or another, every Kittitian is connected to tourism. 

When travelers come to St. Kitts, they seek natural beauty, rich cultural experiences, and authentic encounters with local communities. Consequently, the success of St. Kitts’ tourism industry depends on the health and appeal of the island’s local resources, from its beaches and parks to its arts and heritage sites. 

Ensuring the wellbeing of any tourism destination takes a whole village. Or in this case, it takes a whole island. St. Kitts’ communities, governmental agencies, NGOs, visitors, and the tourism industry all play a role in stewarding the destination and safeguarding their local assets. 

Our Role

Destination Guardian Workshop

To increase community engagement around destination stewardship in St. Kitts, we created the Destination Guardian training workshop. This workshop educates Kittitians about the importance of sustainable tourism and equips them with the knowledge they need to contribute to the long-term wellbeing of their destination. Each year, we deliver the workshop to another group of local residents, including government employees, teachers, community group members, and tourism industry professionals. 

Through a combination of informational presentations, group discussions, interactive exercises, and a field trip, participants learn about:

  • The positive and negative economic, environmental, and socio-cultural impacts of tourism in small island destinations
  • What it means to be a sustainable destination 
  • How they can help protect St. Kitts’ natural and cultural resources and ensure tourism elevates local communities
  • The importance of collaboration to collectively tackle island-wide challenges 

At the end of the workshop, participants are asked to sign the Destination Guardian pledge and identify four concrete actions that they can commit to perform over the next year.

Train-the-Trainer

In addition to the general workshop, we also developed and facilitated a train the trainer session to prepare local community members to deliver their own Destination Guardian trainings. This session equipped participants with a deeper understanding of the Destination Guardian curriculum as well as the knowledge and skills to be more effective trainers.

Location

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Destination: St. Kitts

Dates

2017-Present

Impact

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112 people trained as Destination Guardians

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92% of participants* shared their learnings with other community members

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84% of participants* adopted sustainable practices since the training

*Based on a follow-on survey of the 2019 Destination Guardian participants

“My role as a teacher is to educate. After the workshop, I have a bigger voice not only in my school, but also within my community.” – Thuvia Browne, Destination Guardian participant

Our Partners

  • St. Kitts Ministry of Tourism
  • Partner Logo Box 400x260 SDC Logo

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Palau ocean and land view

Palau: Carbon Neutral Tourism Destination

The Pacific Island nation of Palau is a tiny, yet remarkable country characterized by surreal landscapes, pristine seas, and a long cultural history. The archipelago is made up of more than 340 lush green islands jutting out from the glimmering ocean, only nine of which are inhabited.

Remote Palau island

Remote and Secluded

Palau is truly a hidden island paradise. The archipelago is surrounded on all sides by the vast Pacific Ocean and is located 400 miles north of Papua New Guinea, 550 miles east of the Philippines, and 800 miles southwest of Guam.

Pristine Marine Wonders

Palau’s waters teem with an abundance of marine life including over 500 species of coral and 1,300 types of fish. Thanks to its incredible natural beauty and biodiversity, Palau is considered to be one of the world’s top diving destinations.

Woman kayaking in Palau

Dependent on Tourism

In 2019, 90,000 tourists visited Palau. That’s five times the islands’ population. Tourism is the country’s main source of income and provides vital jobs for local people. In total, it accounts for nearly a third of Palau’s GDP.

Commitment to Sustainability

Though Palau may be tiny, it is bursting with big, bold ambitions. Environmental stewardship has always been the way of the Palauan people who know that their country’s future depends on healthy reefs, jungles, and beaches.

Issues

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Vulnerability to Climate Change

As a remote island nation, Palau is extremely vulnerable to the consequences of climate change. Rising sea levels and intensified tropical cyclones threaten to destroy houses, beaches, and infrastructure. Coral bleaching and acidic waters endanger the marine life that tourists come to see. Climate change is also expected to disrupt global supply chains, leading to food insecurity.

Learn more about how climate change is impacting destinations. 

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Carbon Footprint of Tourism

Tourism depends heavily on fossil fuels and produces emissions that contribute to the climate crisis. Consider the carbon footprint of a vacation to Palau. Getting to the remote islands typically requires flying thousands of miles. Once in Palau, tourists generate CO2 by going on boat rides, turning up the AC, eating imported foods, and engaging in other activities.

Learn more about the activities that contribute to tourism’s carbon footprint. 

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Reliance on Imported Food

Palau’s hotels and restaurants rely on overseas imports to feed their guests. In fact, 85-90% of the country’s food is imported from abroad. The importation of food and drinks produces carbon emissions and causes dollars to leave the local economy. Imported foods also tend to be more packaged and processed which contributes to waste management and health problems. 

OUR ROLE

Palau Carbon Neutral Destination Program

With climate change a very real threat to Palau’s existence, Sustainable Travel International is implementing a project in partnership with Slow Food and the Palau Bureau of Tourism to help the archipelago become the world’s first carbon neutral destination. The project will combat climate change and boost community resilience by:

  • Neutralizing tourism’s carbon footprint
  • Improving the livelihoods of local food producers
  • Increasing local food security
  • Empowering women to participate more fully in the tourism value chain
  • Conserving coastal ecosystems that act as carbon sinks
  • Reducing food waste and building a circular economy

Our Approach

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Strengthening Local Food Production

The project will build the capacity of local farmers, fishers, and other producers to produce high quality products and market them to tourism businesses. 

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Promoting Local Foods

The project will reduce Palau’s dependence on imported foods and celebrate the islands’ gastronomic heritage by helping hotels and restaurants incorporate local ingredients into their menus.

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Including Women

Palauan women are heavily involved in production activities such as farming taro and vegetables, crab harvesting, certain forms of fishing, and producing honeys and jams. Attention will be given to further link these female producers to the tourism value chain.

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Encouraging Sustainable Resource Use

The project is optimizing resource use by encouraging local producers to adopt sustainable agricultural practices and helping chefs make the most of local food products. 

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Developing a Destination Carbon Calculator

We are creating an online platform that will enable tourists to calculate the carbon footprint of their trip to Palau, including flights, lodging, dining, excursions, and ground transport.

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Funding Conservation Projects

Visitors will be able to offset their carbon footprint by contributing to conservation projects. These projects will reduce emissions and boost climate resilience by protecting/restoring coastal ecosystems that act as blue carbon sinks and natural storm barriers.

Our Partners

  • Palau Tourism Bureau
  • Slow Food
  • COFE
  • Palau Pledge
  • Palau Visitors Authority

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Developing Sustainable Tourism Initiatives in Antigua & Barbuda

Facilitating a Destination Stewardship and Action Planning Workshop

Located in the heart of the Eastern Caribbean, Antigua and Barbuda is a popular island destination known for its 365 beautiful beaches. Over one million tourists visited the islands in 2018, making Antigua and Barbuda one of the most tourism dependent countries in the world. Point in case: tourism is the top economic activity in the country, accounting for over half of GDP and supporting one in two jobs.

Like many other small island destinations, Antigua and Barbuda faces various sustainability challenges. The islands have limited natural resources and are highly vulnerable to climate change. In addition, a strong dependence on cruise tourism limits the local economic benefits generated by tourism, as Caribbean cruise tourists tend to spend significantly less onshore than land-based visitors.

To plan for sustainable tourism development, the Antigua and Barbuda Ministry of Tourism & Investment partnered with Sustainable Travel International in 2014 as part of the Sustainable Destinations Alliance for the Americas program. One of the outcomes of this program was the creation of a Destination Stewardship Council to oversee and coordinate sustainable tourism development in Antigua and Barbuda. To increase cross-sector collaboration, stakeholders from across government agencies, businesses, and NGOs sit on the council.

Our Role

To build upon this previous work, we again partnered with Antigua and Barbuda in 2019. This time our goal was to deepen stakeholders’ understanding of sustainable tourism and prepare the council to take concrete action.

To accomplish this, our team facilitated a Destination Stewardship & Action Planning Workshop in October 2019. Attendees included members of the Destination Stewardship Council as well as representatives from the public, private, and civic sectors. Participants learned about the importance of sustainable tourism and discussed the positive and negative impacts that tourism can have on people and the environment. They were also introduced to the four pillars of destination sustainability and best practices related to each.

On the second day of the workshop, participants visited a local nature reserve. During this field trip, they witnessed various examples of sustainability in action, such as natural heritage interpretation and water harvesting practiced at the site.

After learning about sustainable destination principles and practices, participants worked together to assess the sustainability of their own destination. They scored Antigua and Barbuda’s performance against internationally established criteria related to community benefits, waste management, cultural preservation, environmental protection, and other sustainable tourism practices. Participants used these assessment results, along with their personal perspectives and experiences, to debate and identify the top challenges for destination sustainability in Antigua and Barbuda.

Participants were then divided into groups based on their areas of expertise and assigned one of the prioritized sustainability issues. The workshop also included an informational session on project development and management best practices. Using what they learned in this session, each group developed a collaborative destination stewardship project and action plan to address their assigned issue. The resulting four projects focus on the following areas:

  • Developing and adopting a national sustainable tourism strategy
  • Restoring and improving visitor management at a historic sugar plantation
  • Raising local environmental awareness 
  • Increasing local representation in management positions within the tourism industry

This workshop was just the beginning of the next phase of Antigua and Barbuda’s sustainability journey. With a strong foundation in sustainable tourism and project management, the Destination Stewardship Council will be able to refine and implement actionable solutions that guide the islands towards a more sustainable future. 

Protect the Places You Love

Your gift will help conserve our planet’s most vulnerable destinations and empower the people who live there

Our Partners

  • Antigua & Barbuda Ministry of Tourism and Investment

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Discover why sustainable tourism is particularly important in small island destinations.

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Small island developing state

Sustainable Tourism Course for Small Island Policy-Makers

An online course to foster sustainable tourism development and policy-making in small island developing states

As one of the fastest growing sectors in the world, tourism is a key economic factor for many Small Island Developing States (SIDS). However, the size and geographic location of SIDS results in many vulnerabilities that limit their competitiveness in the industry. Additionally, unplanned tourism growth can present many risks for their ecosystems and inhabitants.

Because of this, it is critical to ensure that tourism development in SIDS occurs in a sustainable manner that accounts for the needs of the local economy, environment, and host communities. Accomplishing this requires strategic planning, collaboration across stakeholder groups, and well-formulated policies and standards. Policy-makers and destination managers are some of the key groups who play a pivotal role in leading and fostering the sustainable development of the tourism in SIDS.

Our Role

To address this need and guide small island destinations towards more a sustainable future, we developed a sustainable tourism course specifically geared towards policy-makers and destination managers in SIDS. This course is being offered as an open online course in partnership with the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences and the Hamburg Open Online University (HOOU). The course is currently underway with nearly 500 students enrolled and a group of expert tutors guiding learners along the way.

The course aims to address the shared challenges and promote the sustainable development of tourism in SIDS by:

  • Enhancing participant understanding of sustainable tourism development and management
  • Inspiring learners to think carefully and critically about current SIDS’ tourism issues and related tourism policies
  • Enabling participants to assess the opportunities that sustainable tourism strategies offer for SIDS in particular
  • Increasing participant understanding of how policy-making can improve tourism in small island states

By bringing together a diverse group of learners and incorporating concrete examples from around the world, the course seeks to form a global SIDS learning community and foster cross-destination collaboration around sustainable tourism in small island states.

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Make the World a Better Place

Your gift will help us continue to support small island destinations and work towards a more sustainable future for places around the globe

Our Partners

  • HAW Hamburg
  • HOOU

Related Work

Small Island Developing States

Learn more about small island developing states and how we’re guiding these destinations towards a more sustainable future.

Training & Education

Learn more about how we’re educating key stakeholders groups about sustainable tourism.

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Fiji Women Credit Maggie Boyle / DFAT via Flickr

Sustainable Tourism Enterprise Program for the South Pacific

The islands of the Pacific are a popular destination for many travelers looking to trade in city life for secluded beaches, cultural authenticity and stunning natural environments. While the small size and remoteness of these destinations makes for ideal getaways, these characteristics also bring along many challenges. Visitors often put increased pressure on the already limited supply of agricultural products, water and energy. This results in a further dependence on imported goods and contributes to excess waste production. On top of these challenges, the transportation of imported goods drives up carbon emissions, exacerbating the climate change impacts to which small islands are particularly vulnerable.

The Pacific islands also must cope with economic vulnerability due to their geographic isolation and small size. According to the Asian Development Bank, 31 percent of Fiji’s population and 26.9 percent of Samoa’s population lived below the poverty line in 2014. Tourism is a key driver of economic development in these destinations. The industry has the potential to combat poverty by providing more jobs, growing incomes, and creating markets for local goods and services. However, there is still an opportunity for the tourism sector in the Pacific to be more inclusive of local suppliers and service providers and prioritize capacity building. This will help ensure that local communities are truly reaping the economic benefits of the industry.

What We're Doing

At the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in 2012, Heads of State adopted the 10-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns (10YFP), a global framework for action to accelerate the shift towards SCP including resource efficient and low carbon tourism, in both developed and developing countries. In 2015, the Pacific Sustainable Tourism Alliance (PSTA) was formed as a public-private partnership with the South Pacific Tourism Organization (SPTO) to help fast track sustainability in the region. Sustainable Travel International working with the SPTO under the auspices of the PSTA, was awarded a grant through the 10YFP Trust Fund call for proposals for Sustainable Tourism Programme to implement a pilot project focused on improving sustainable resource management in hotels in the Pacific.

The destinations participating in the preliminary stage of the project are Fiji and Samoa; however the eventual intention is to expand to other Pacific Islands. Through this work, the partners hope to inspire a new commitment to sustainability among members of the local tourism industry and empower them to improve their consumption and production behavior by:

  • Collaborating with local stakeholders to identify the barriers to sustainable consumption and production within the destination
  • Training 100 hotel managers on sustainable tourism best practices such as sourcing goods locally, using resources more efficiently, and utilizing a supply chain that is more inclusive of local people and cultures
  • Raising awareness among hotel managers on the financial and economic benefits of incorporating sustainability practices into their business operations
  • Equipping 100 hotels with a Sustainability Management System (SMS) – a digital tool to monitor energy-use, waste-reduction, water consumption, and sustainable sourcing

Long Term Impacts

By influencing the sustainability behavior in businesses and across destinations, this project will lead to a more robust economy and a better future for people and environments in the Pacific. The anticipated long-term impacts include:

Reduced consumption of nonrenewable resources (water, gas, electricity) and increased resource efficiency through recycling, greywater recycling and use of alternative energy sources

Decreased amount of waste and pollution generated by the tourism industry

Reduced dependence on foreign imports through local production and consumption

Less carbon emissions being generated from the transportation of imported goods

Increased tourism-related job opportunities and income streams for local people

Increased awareness and appreciation of local culture

For more information about this project, please contact Paloma Zapata.

Our Partners

  • 10YFP Sustainable Tourism Programme
  • South Pacific Tourism Authority
  • Fiji Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism
  • Samoa Hotel Association
  • Samoa Tourism Authority

Make the World a Better Place

Your gift will help us continue to work towards a more sustainable future for Pacific island nations and other destinations around the globe

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Pacific Sustainable Tourism Alliance

Learn more about how the Pacific Sustainable Tourism Alliance is combatting key environmental and human threats associated with tourism in the Pacific

Climate Change

Learn more about how we’re addressing climate change issues affecting other destinations 

Giving locals a voice in tourism development in St. Kitts

Implementing an island-wide resident survey to gauge community perceptions of tourism

Employing 1 in 10 people globally, tourism has the potential to benefit a large number of people. By creating jobs, driving infrastructure improvements, and promoting inclusive growth, tourism is a powerful tool to fight poverty and foster community development.

With all these benefits, one might assume that local residents would be fully supportive of tourism in their backyards. The problem is that sometimes tourism development has the opposite effect and diminishes local quality of life. Without proper planning, tourism growth can bring about new challenges for locals, such as unaffordable housing prices, dwindling resources, and a loss of cultural authenticity. Over the last year, there’s been increasing global discussion around the issue of “overtourism” and its consequences in more popular destinations, where some communities are literally telling tourists to go home.

How then does a destination prevent this situation from happening before it’s too late? It all comes down to finding the balance between tourism growth and local needs.

To ensure that tourism enriches local communities, destination managers must pay attention to resident concerns and engage them in development plans. Happy residents play a major part in creating an enjoyable visitor experience and successful tourism industry. When residents win, everyone wins.

Our Role

The Caribbean island of St. Kitts is a destination that is well aware of the importance of sustainable, community-driven tourism. The warm and welcoming Kittitian people are undeniably the heart and soul of the island. The St. Kitts Ministry of Tourism is working to make sure that they are at the heart of tourism as well, by giving them a voice in development.

To gauge local attitudes toward tourism, Sustainable Travel International supported the Ministry in administering a resident survey in July 2017. This was the first survey of this kind in St. Kitts. Over 320 Kittitians, representing all parishes and demographics completed the survey.  The results examine how well tourism in St. Kitts is meeting local needs, creating opportunities for residents, and impacting their quality of life.

Understanding resident concerns is the starting point. The next step is taking action to actually address any existing or potential issues. The Ministry is using the survey findings to guide policy and program interventions, making it a valuable tool for community development.

Of course, as tourism grows and the destination changes, residents’ feelings and priorities will change as well. Engaging residents should be an ongoing process. We will continue to support the Ministry to create additional avenues for residents to share their opinions and be involved in decision-making, as well as implement future surveys to monitor changes over time.To learn more about the other ways that St. Kitts is encouraging sustainable development and community-based tourism, click here.

Header Photo Credit: St. Kitts Tourism

Protect the Places You Love

Your gift will help conserve our planet’s most vulnerable destinations and empower the people who live there

Related Work

St. Kitts

Learn more about how we’re helping St. Kitts work towards a more sustainable future.

People & Culture

Learn more about how we’re working to ensure that tourism development supports communities and improves local quality of life.

Stay in Touch

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