Founder and Director of St. Kitts Sea Turtle Monitoring Network
Crouching down on the beach in the dark of night, waiting for a mother sea turtle to emerge from the waves to lay her eggs, this is just another day “at the office” for Dr. Kimberly Stewart, the Founder and Director of St. Kitts Sea Turtle Monitoring Network.
When we think of tourism, we often think of hotels, airlines, restaurants, attractions, and tour guides. But the industry is far more complex than this and includes many more stakeholders beyond what we see on the surface. For instance, how do the roads you travel on get built? What happens to your trash after you dispose of it? And who maintains the parks and beaches you visit? In addition to the more obvious participants, tourism also involves government departments and agencies, local and global NGOs, and host communities.
From protecting the nesting habitats of endangered sea turtles to preserving cherished cultural heritage sites, travel philanthropy funds such as the Heart of St. Kitts Foundation have the power to create real, tangible impact at the local level. But this progress doesn’t just happen on its own or because of the isolated efforts of a few people. The potential of travel philanthropy funds to make a difference instead relies on the support and participation of the local community as a whole. It doesn’t matter whether a person is a hotel owner, tour guide, environmental specialist, government official, school student, or artist – each and every destination resident can play a role in growing this collective impact.
One of the most effective ways of addressing the interrelated issues that impact a tourism destination’s economic, social and environmental well-being is to take a region-wide approach to planning and to equip local people with the information and tools they need to prepare for their future. Here, Sustainable Travel International’s Seleni Matus provides an overview of the regional alliance model and its promise for improving lives and protecting lands through tourism.