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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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G Adventures’ Ripple Score

International tours can generate tremendous benefits for people around the world, but only if local communities are embedded throughout their supply chain. We developed a tour evaluation system to help one of the world’s largest adventure travel companies, G Adventures, evaluate and boost their local impact.

Tourism’s Ripple Effect on Local Communities

Employing 1 in 10 people on the planet, tourism is an incredibly diverse, global industry. Just consider how many different pieces come together to make up a single trip! From travel agents and flight attendants to trekking guides and money changers, tourism touches the lives of many people all around the world.

Because it is so far-reaching, tourism can create profound ripple effects within local communities. Tourist dollars can bring greater financial stability and improve living conditions for the people who need it the most. By staying in a hotel that decorates with locally crafted artwork and serves dishes made with locally grown ingredients, a traveler will in turn be supporting local artisans and farmers. 

Wiwa Community ColombiaYet, while there is great potential for tourism to benefit local populations, this isn’t always the reality. Instead of remaining in the hands of local communities, a large portion of travel dollars end up lining the pockets of big, foreign-owned companies.

International tour operators, for instance, partner with suppliers all around the world – hotels, restaurants, boat operators, and more. If these suppliers are locally owned and operated, it can stimulate a huge amount of benefits for local communities. But if their tour offering does not integrate local goods and service providers, then their local impact will be negligible. In fact, for every $100 spent on a vacation tour to a developing country, only $5 actually stays in the local economy. 

Improving a tour operator’s impact requires understanding how their trips are currently benefiting local economies and where they’re coming up short. For a company with hundreds or thousands of suppliers, this is easier said than done.

Our Role

Creating a Tour Evaluation System to Measure Local Benefits

With well over 700 different small-group tour itineraries in more than 100 countries, G Adventures is one of the world’s largest adventure travel companies. From its inception, G Adventures has firmly believed that travel has the power to change lives and they embrace community tourism as their core philosophy. Yet, while G Adventures always strived to positively impact the local communities they visit, they never had a way to measure how well they were actually delivering this.  

In 2016, we teamed up with G Adventures to devise a better way to monitor and improve the real-world impact of their trips on the communities they visit. To accomplish this, we created “G Local,” a customized supply chain assessment system. Through a combination of supplier surveys and on-site inspections, this system allows G Adventures to evaluate the extent to which their tours are actually benefiting local communities. For example, is the supplier locally owned and operated? Do they purchase most of their products from local farms and markets? Are their food dishes rooted in the traditional local cuisine?

Using the results from the G Local assessment, G Adventures now calculates a “Ripple Score” for each of their trips which shows what percentage of the money spent on that trip remains in the local economy. In order to be as transparent as possible, they actually list the Ripple Score for each itinerary on their website. If a trip has a Ripple Score of 100, for instance, that would mean that all of the suppliers that make up that tour are locally owned. The average Ripple Score across G Adventures’ tours is currently 93%.

But the buck doesn’t stop here. G Adventures is using this knowledge to improve the local impact of their trips. Since launching their assessment system, G Adventures has decided to phase out certain suppliers that don’t align with their values, while supporting other suppliers in improving their practices.

While G Adventures is a trailblazer in responsible tourism, they aren’t the only company that can adopt this type of approach. We hope G Adventures’ leadership inspires other tour operators to dive deeper into their supply chains and take steps to improve their social and environmental impact.

Partner With Us

Interested in learning more about how Sustainable Travel International can help your company transform its social and environmental impact? Click below to reach out – we’d love to hear from you! 

Our Partners

  • G Adventures
  • Planeterra

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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

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Our Partners

  • Antigua & Barbuda Ministry of Tourism and Investment

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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

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St. Kitts Train the Trainer Workshop Attendees

Investing in the Development of St. Kitts’ Tourism Workforce

Facilitating a Train the Trainer Workshop focused on sustainable tourism

Tourism destinations such as the Caribbean island of St. Kitts are only as strong as the people and businesses who make them up. From tour guides to hotel housekeeping staff, the local workforce are the building blocks of St. Kitts’ bustling tourism industry.  

A competent workforce is essential to an excellent visitor experience. From the moment a visitor steps foot on the island, the tourism and hospitality workforce shapes their experience. Was the immigration officer welcoming? Did the front desk agent provide helpful information about the local culture? Was their hotel room clean? Each of these micro-moments that take place throughout a trip affects a visitor’s overall perception of the destination. One interaction can make or break whether the traveler returns home raving about their trip or vowing to never come back.

Thus, in order to strengthen a destination and ensure its long-term sustainability, it is important to invest in the people who propel the industry forward. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to make sure that those in leadership roles are adequately prepared to support their staff’s professional development.

Our Role

As part of our ongoing partnership with the St. Kitts Ministry of Tourism we hosted a Train the Trainer Workshop with a focus on sustainable tourism in the Kittitian context. This workshop was geared toward managers in tourism businesses, particularly those with regular training and human resource responsibilities.

On a sunny St. Kitts day in late October, 10 enthusiastic and ambitious participants joined us for the two-day workshop. Most participants held supervisory roles and came from various tourism-related organizations including accommodations, attractions, and restaurants.

To kick off the training, participants were asked a simple question: “What one word represents what being a trainer means to you?” Uplifting words such as “inspire” “change” “leader” “educator” and “guide” were just some of the words that came to mind.

Over the course of the workshop, our team supported participants in becoming the trainers that they aspired to be. The workshop focused on developing essential skills that will help participants be more effective communicators, leaders, and mentors – both on the job and in their personal lives. Participants learned about topics such as engaging different learners, creating supportive environments, and handling challenging situations. In addition, a particular emphasis was placed on how trainers and managers play a key role in bolstering business sustainability, both through staff development and other operational improvements.  

Exercises and activities were woven throughout the training, encouraging interactivity and allowing participants to apply their learnings. Participants were incredibly engaged, eager to learn, and supportive of one another.  At the end of the workshop, each participant developed a training plan related to their individual training responsibilities – one participant created a plan for a culinary training, while another focused on guest services.

Given their positions and roles in the tourism industry, the participants are well-positioned to apply what they learned in their day-to-day lives. We hope that this training will generate a ripple effect of impact and contribute to a thriving future for St. Kitts.

The Train the Trainer Ripple Effect of Impact

  • Improved training abilities of tourism managers

  • Increased staff capacity and more competent tourism workforce

  • Progress towards organizational goals, such as enhanced productivity, resource efficiency, quality of service provided, and staff satisfaction

  • Improved business competitiveness and sustainability

  • Thriving tourism destination

Make the World a Better Place

Your gift will help us continue to empower local communities and work towards a more sustainable future for places around the globe

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Stay in Touch

Get our email updates to see how we’re protecting our planet’s most vulnerable and treasured destinations