Can Sustainable Tourism Save the Dutch Caribbean?

Kralendijk The Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA) recently published a special edition of their free digital newsletter BioNews about the importance of designing and implementing sustainable tourism practices within the Dutch Caribbean. The idea is to promote sustainable practices on each of the islands to help conserve and restore the natural environments while enhancing the visitors experience and livelihoods of residents.

Prior to 2020, international travel was getting progressively easier and cheaper. There was a pressure to offer visitors prime experiences at a discounted price which often created tension between nature management and conservation and the tourism industry. It is important to remember why tourists visit these islands in the first place; often to take advantage of the pristine nature, crystal clear waters and diverse ecosystems they have to offer.

At first glance it may appear that the demands of increasing tourism are at direct odds with conservation efforts, but this does not have to be the case. Designing a sustainable tourism plan will not only work to protect the environmental richness that inspired tourists to visit the islands in the first place, but actually enhance their overall experience. DCNA just released its special edition BioNews on sustainable tourism, which promotes the idea of designing tourism to enrich the environment and local experience on the islands. It is paramount that the development and growth of the tourism industry within the Dutch Caribbean take into account the fragility of its natural resources and work to ensure that these environments are protected for everyone to enjoy for years to come.

Uniqueness of the Dutch Caribbean

Each of the six Dutch Caribbean islands have their own unique draw, enticing visitors from around the world each year. From environments ranging from tropical, cloud and dry forests to rich coral reefs, each island has something special to offer. Unfortunately, recent research has highlighted areas in which these environments have become gravely threatened, and if no action is taken soon, these environments could disappear completely.

The main issues each island will have to face can be broken into four main categories: increases in human pressure, consumption of natural resources, inadequate infrastructure (to deal with waste water and solid waste) and climate change. Each island will need to consider how to adapt and deal with these four issues if they wish to design a sustainable tourism plan.

Measuring Success

Measuring the effectiveness of a sustainable tourism plan is not always straight forward. When determining the overall success, it is important to consider three aspects: environmental (how is the island physically coping with tourism), social (how is local culture and overall satisfaction of residents being influenced by tourism) and economic (how are the islands financially benefitting from tourism). A successful management plan must find a way to balance these three aspects.

Consumers are learning that their choices are contributing to the overall health of local environments, and increasingly “quality” is being defined by the environmental and ethical components. Ecotourism has seen a rise in recent years, evident by Bonaire’s push to become the world’s first blue destination. Ecotourism could highlight some of the islands’ best natural features while still allowing tourists the opportunity to come and explore. This special edition BioNews explores various options available and provides recommendations for each island to consider.

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More information

Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance- BioNews  special 2020- Designing Sustaiable Tourism

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