Climate change and unsustainable development increasingly are threatening some of the world's most popular and appealing travel destinations. In response, Royal Caribbean Cruises and several other organizations have partnered to address these challenges by helping tourism destinations in the Caribbean and Latin America "to safeguard their natural and cultural assets, while enhancing communities and securing a vibrant regional economy."
The new Sustainable Destinations Alliance for the Americas (SDAA), launched last week at an event in Barbados, marks the largest-scale effort to date through which public and private entities have united to focus on destination sustainability in the Americas. The Alliance includes the Organization of American States Caribbean Tourism Organization, global NGO Sustainable Travel International, Royal Caribbean Cruises, and the US government, through the United States Permanent Mission to the Organization of American States.
The SDAA will offer seven destinations in the Caribbean and Latin America significant support with their sustainability efforts. Each participating destination will begin with an evaluation of destination-management practices designed to recognize areas of strength, and to identify areas in which they have the greatest opportunity to improve.
Destinations also will have access to an online sustainable tourism course called Sustainable Tourism Professionals, designed to facilitate implementation of sustainability practices, and a destination sustainability monitoring framework called SMART, which will support the tracking of key performance metrics. Results and lessons learned will be disseminated regionally to leverage market advantage, and to foster greater understanding among destination decision-makers.
Sustainable Travel International, the Alliance's non-profit implementation partner, will conduct assessments in each destination using its Rapid Destination Diagnostic tool, which provides a snapshot of the destination's sustainability status, a summary of destination-management priorities, and valuable input to inform and shape destination-level policies.
The aim is for these seven destinations to follow the successful implementation of similar pilot programs in Cozumel, Mexico and Roatán, Honduras.
"It's critical that companies look at ways they can have a positive impact in the places where they do business," said Rich Pruitt, VP of Safety and Environmental Stewardship at Royal Caribbean Cruises. "We want to see the uniquely beautiful destinations of the Caribbean and Latin American region thrive, and are committed to collaborating with the organizations that can work to move these destinations toward greater sustainability."
In-depth work in the first seven destinations is being financed through resources provided by the United States Permanent Mission to the Organization of American States and by Royal Caribbean Cruises through its Ocean Fund. Four destinations will be funded by the US Mission, and three will receive funding from Royal Caribbean.
SDAA hopes to expand to include more than 30 destinations in the next few years, which would make it the largest initiative of its kind in the world.
Royal Caribbean Cruises also announced its Destinations for Tomorrow toolkit — an online resource for destinations that wish to complete sustainability self-assessments, learn how to prioritize sustainability practices, and become part of a community of organizations and destinations with similar goals.
In August, the Honduran island of Roatán became the first tourism destination to complete a comprehensive 360-degree assessment and action plan for destination-level sustainability. The diagnostic process evaluated Roatán’s performance on five key pillars of sustainability, which include sustainable tourism planning and governance, economic linkages, preservation of cultural heritage, social and community issues, and environmental protection. Elsewhere in the Caribbean, Aruba has established a goal to become fully energy-independent by 2020 through several clean-energy investments and initiatives.