Creating a wave of impact: Training Tourism Professionals to be Local Sustainability Advocates

Day in and day out, thousands of travelers set foot on St. Kitts’ shores. During their visit, they stay in hotels, go on tours, and eat in restaurants, meeting countless locals who work in the industry.

Yet these tourists are largely unaware of the environmental and socio-cultural challenges facing St. Kitts and the opportunities they have to make a positive impact. As the ones who are on the frontline interacting with these visitors on a daily basis, tourism workers are in a unique position to drive a transformation in the industry and spread awareness of sustainable tourism practices. However, before this can happen, they must first become familiar with the principles of sustainability themselves and know how businesses and travelers can take action.

Together with Sustainable Travel International, the St. Kitts Ministry of Tourism hosted a sustainability training that brought together 21 participants from a range of tourism enterprises including hotels, tour providers, restaurants, transportation, and specialty boutiques. Through a series of presentations and group exercises, the participants learned about the importance of responsible tourism, as well as some of the ways that they can take action within their businesses. A panel of local community experts provided insights into more specific aspects of sustainable tourism, such as marine conservation, responsible energy usage, and cultural heritage preservation, and shared ways that businesses can be proactive.

(Left) Tricia Greaux, Habitat and Marine Protected Areas Monitoring Officer at the St. Kitts Department of Marine Resources explains some of the ways that tourism businesses and travelers can prevent plastic pollution from harming marine animals. (Top Right) Training participants brainstorm ideas for how they can incorporate sustainability practices into their business settings. (Bottom Right) Joneil Stapleton, cost and inventory controller at Ocean Terrace Inn, presents her working groups’ ideas of how to communicate sustainability options and initiatives to guests.

The training participants also learned about the Heart of St. Kitts Sustainability Charter, a resource that outlines specific actions that tourism enterprises in St. Kitts can take to be more sustainable. A number of participants signed on to the Charter, joining a network of local businesses and individuals dedicated to supporting one another in improving their sustainability practices.

To wrap up the workshop portion of the training, the participants were exposed to the different steps involved in implementing sustainability initiatives and creating employee-led green teams within a business. As part of a follow-on group activity, the participants were asked to start applying what they learned by brainstorming the practices that they could incorporate within their own job context.

After the training, participants embarked on a group field trip to Kittitian Hill, a hotel development recognized for innovative practices related to environmental sustainability and community partnership. This excursion gave participants a chance to witness multiple sustainable business initiatives in action. They learned about and saw some of the energy-saving design elements that Kittitian Hill has incorporated into their infrastructure. For instance, they observed how strategically landscaping can help shield the sun and allow for more efficient cooling. In addition, participants toured Kittitian Hill’s on-site gardens and learned about farm-to-table guest dining process and other sustainable food sourcing practices.

(Left) Training participants gather around the “Farm Table” where farm-to-table dinners are prepared and served using herbs and produce grown on the premises. (Right) Training participants learn about the local plants grown on the Kittitian Hill grounds and their traditional uses.

But this training was not just about educating 21 individuals. It was about creating ‘a Wave of Change’.

At the end of the training, each participant was granted a button reading “I Speak St. Kitts Sustainable Tourism” that they can wear as conversation starters and to identify them as local sustainable tourism resources. Those 21 people left the training enthusiastic and prepared to be ambassadors within their own businesses and the community at large. Armed with their newfound knowledge, they will be able to advocate for changes within their businesses and multiply the impact by engaging fellow employees and spreading the message of sustainability to tourists.

Nickhail Rogers, the operator of Rogers Rainforest Ecotours, proudly receives his training certificate from Assistant Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism.

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