The Honduran island of Roatán has become the first tourism destination to complete a comprehensive 360-degree assessment and action plan for destination-level sustainability, according to a recent announcement by Sustainable Travel International (STI).
The Rapid Sustainable Destination Diagnostic was conducted by the Mesoamerican Reef Tourism Initiative in close collaboration with STI, Honduras’ Ministry of Tourism, and Roatán’s local Geotourism Council. 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.
The diagnostic’s results show that, while Roatán is making progress on destination management issues, there is an urgent need to establish in situ destination management, incorporate native island culture more deeply as part of Roatán’s tourism product, and tackle waste management and water conservation issues.
In response to these results, more than 50 leaders and leading organizations from the government, private sector and civil society have joined forces to determine a forward-looking but practical roadmap, which will address the several sustainability issues facing Roatán.
The resulting action plan is built around three key initiatives:
· Establishment of a destination management organization (DMO) for the Bay Islands, which includes Roatán, Guanaja and Utila;
· Preservation of native island culture through an inventory of tangible and intangible local, traditional and cultural knowledge, as well as the establishment of a permanent Cultural Marketplace for the promotion of intangible cultural heritage; and
· Development of a destination-level action plan for waste management and water conservation.
Destination stakeholders also have formed Working Groups to help bring these three initiatives to life in the near-term.
“This is an important step for Roatán and Honduras,” said Syntia Solomon Bennett, Honduras’ Vice Minister of Tourism. “These efforts will help put our tourism industry on a sustainable trajectory, and the process will serve as a model to replicate in other tourism destinations in Honduras.” This project was made possible through the generous support of The Summit Foundation and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.’s Ocean Fund.
Roatán’s tourism sector is an important part of the overall economic health of Honduras. Renowned for its top diving sites and diverse marine biodiversity, as well as its rich Caribbean culture, the idyllic island draws more than half of the 1.8 million annual international visits to Honduras. It also generates a significant share of the overall contribution of tourism to GDP, which is estimated at 5.8 percent.
In other tourism news, Marriott International recently announced it is looking to move beyond its current global footprint of more than 3,800 hotels in over 70 countries and focus on providing sustainable economic activity and local employment. In coming years, more than half of its new hotels will be located in emerging markets, where tourism is a major driver of new jobs and economic development.