To be a catalyst for a change towards sustainable tourism in Jamaica

To be a catalyst for a change towards sustainable tourism in Jamaica

Jamaica
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

To provide high quality experiences, offer accommodations with simple elegance while ensuring we operate in a responsible, environmentally sound manner without sacrificing on guest comfort.
To expand the role of our business beyond that of merely a hotel by contributing to our community and to promote the development of tourism which capitalizes on the natural, cultural and historic heritage of the area by providing in-depth information to educate guests so that they can learn, appreciate, enjoy and better understand their host communities and the natural environment.
To work with other stakeholders to develop and promote community based tourism so that it contributes to make the overall industry more sustainable by increasing economic benefits for host communities and by increasing awareness of visitors to the diversity and wide range of natural experiences, culinary offerings and cultural heritage, while enhancing the quality of the tourism experience
To develop an “inclusive” tourism by involving a wide range of stakeholders in an integrated tourism development approach recommending and offering locally owned and operated small enterprises and ensuring that our type and scale of tourism is appropriate to local conditions and operates within the limits set by local infrastructure and carrying capacity.

Your idea
This will be the address used to plot your entry on the map.
Street Address

P.O. Box 254

City

Port Antonio

State/Province

Portland

Postal/Zip Code

0000

Country
Year innovation began

1993

Geotourism Challenge Addressed by Entrant

Quality of tourism management and impact on the destination

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Indicate sector in which you principally work

Tourism-related business

Geographic location

Rural, Coast, Mountain, Rainforest.

Plot your innovation within the Mosaic of Solutions
Main barrier addressed

Corporate monolithic approach to tourism

Main insight addressed

Incorporate sustainable practices

Innovation
What is the goal of your innovation?

Highest quality giver while increasing efficiency, reducing environmental footprint while improving economic viability of the hotel and the well being of the community through fair trade.

How does your approach support or embody geotourism?

We tap into all the assets and resources of our communities in a holistic manner by offering activities and learning experiences for our guests using the services of local community partners, raising awareness of cultural heritage, sourcing products from local suppliers and hiring, training and empowering staff from local communities while working with them on environmental and sustainable development issues to become part of the solution. We recognise that we cannot change the world but we can try to give as much as possible to our community as we work towards being a catalyst for positive change in the approach to tourism in our community and country. This is particularly important in a country that depends so heavily on tourism as its main source of income as happens to be the case in Jamaica.

Describe your approach in detail. How is it innovative?

Our values regarding sustainable business practices permeate planning, policy, product development, marketing and services and forms the foundation for our comprehensive, strategic planning and management of the total resources base to improve products and services. Size is an important aspect that affects operations and costs. Much of what we do is possible because the hotel is small such as drying clothes in the sun. In such instances the smaller scale of operations is an asset. Starting with planning, selection of the location, eg. selecting to adjust a former private residence rather than build new to minimise construction pollution, design (open air with as much natural daylight and cross ventilation) and management decisions regarding the type of services we offer and those we consciously do not provide we try and avoid problems rather than finding solutions to them. We analyse the alternatives for every decision to ensure prudent use of all natural resources while continuously reviewing new technologies and working to improve efficiencies of all systems and adherence to purchasing policies ( local and organic as far as possible) standards and practices such as recycling, minimising solid waste, avoidance of toxic chemicals and focus on making our business part of the solution by cooperating with community partners. From the inception we have opted for long term solutions rather than short term profits. An example is that we invested in a waste water treatment plant that can deal with double the current requirements so as to enable growth. We continue to invest and increase our capacity in terms of rain water harvesting ( currently at 48,000 gallons ) and renewable energies although the initial investments in environmental technologies despite initially high capital expenditures in order to ensure our long term survival. We set out to operate as a socially responsible business to add value and meaning to our work.

What types of partnerships or professional development would be most beneficial in spreading your innovation?

Providing opportunities for fair trade and partnership while demonstrating that preserving our environment and cultural heritage ensures the attractiveness of the destination and provides the main incentives for visitors to come. Developing activities and experiences together with partners that tap into the unique attributes of the destination in as without destroying the natural environment and being conducted in as sensitive a manner as possible. We foster these partnerships in numerous ways while purchasing produce from them while at the same time directing visitors and business to them. Joint destination marketing will help to feature these unique attributes of the destination to mutual benefit and thus help the benefits of the tourism dollar be spread as widely as possible. Having demonstrated the financial feasability and potential to the community members, then using this as an incentive to educate them about best practices and gradually raise their environmental awareness.

Impact
In one sentence describe what kind of impact, change, or reform your approach is intended to achieve.

Sustainable development to the mutual benefit and pleasure of both visitors and the host community developed in a truly inclusive manner so that all value is added for all .

Describe the degree of success of your approach to date. Clearly define how you measure quantitative and qualitative impact in terms of how your approach contributes to the sustainability or enhancement of local culture, environment, heritage, or aesthetics? How does your approach minimize negative impacts? 200 words or less

We applied and secured funding on behalf of the Womens hand made paper making project in Fairy Hill. They have been able to purchase equipment and have received marketing assistance as well as attending seminars on operating a small business as well as fine handcrafts to enhance their skills. We continue to give them our shredded paper as raw material and purchase their products as guest stationary. Tours to the Maroon community are offered. We have taken journalists there to help promote these and raise awareness of their cultural history. We also purchase their produce . We are now working closely together to apply for assistance to help promote agri-tourism. The village of Tom's Hope has been the source of a lot of fresh produce for years. We also organise hikes for our guests who are escorted by farmers of the area as an incremental source of income. All of these linkages have directed flows of monies to these communities over the years and we have been able to assist 2 communities to access funds from development programmes by contributing technical assistance on an honorary basis. We have hosted the seminars complimentary and also conducted environmental awareness seminars in the communities ourselves. This has lead to a better cross cultural understanding transfer through transfer of knowledge and experiences. Increasingly attention is paid to issues such as solid waste and keeping the environment clean. The ongoing support over the years has built up the trust base required in order to work with them. This in itself is a measure of success in this long term process. By emphasizing the demand for natural, chemical free products we have helped gradually change their farming practices, raised appreciation of their own culture and provided incentive to help preserve it.

How does your program promote traveler enthusiasm, satisfaction, and engagement with the locale?

Guests are keen on meaningful travel with the opportunity to not only enjoy their holiday with a clear conscious by contributing to a good cause and supporting sustainable development but also to enjoy life enhancing experiences. By working with small owner operated businesses and community members, where the owners and service providers offer individual attention and in-depth information, visitors gain a privileged behind-the scenes insight into local culture and lives of the communities. They are welcomed warmly like extended family members by our partners who focus on hosting them in a caring, warm and thoughtful manner. The very positive guest responses encourages and motivates our partners further. Guests enjoy the authenticity and naturalness of these very individual exchanges rather than the standard tours of mass tourism. Art exhibitions showcasing works from local artists have been organised in our gallery offering guests individual mementos of their visit.

In what ways are local residents actively involved in your innovation, including participation and community input? How has the community responded to or benefited from your approach?

We have worked on the projects together and formulated the needs expressed by them with the objective of developing the areas that they have established as their priorities. For our part we have sought the linkages which will help secure the financial viability of their efforts. New ideas evolve in discussions with them. Guest feedback is shared with them and they consider how they can respond and meet the requests. Testimonials from communities express their appreciation of the assistance and incremental income earned as a result of our cooperation and the long standing nature of our cooperation and plans to develop them further speak for themselves. These plans evolve organically through ongoing dialogue and sharing of our joint experiences.

Describe how your innovation helps travelers and local residents better understand the value of the area’s cultural and natural heritage, and educates them on local environmental issues. How do you motivate them to act responsibly in their future travel decisions?

Interaction with individuals while exploring the areas gives them these insights. The guides explain what they are doing, outline their challenges and goals so there is a direct linkage to what they are experiencing, a result of the work done to date to develop sustainable tourism and create the community linkages, and understand the issues. We raise these issues with our guests in conversation and on our website. Currently we have an online petition which we ask our guests to sign to help the community in Fairy Hill in their efforts to maintain Winnifred as a public beach and prevent its development with villas. The community wants to preserve it as a natural habitat and develop sources of low-impact income. We send out emails to past guests, we disseminate information on arrival in the welcome pack and in the guest info. folders in the rooms as well as on our website. Guests can offset their carbon emissions by contributing to the local reforestation programe

Sustainability
Is your initiative financially and organizationally sustainable? If not, what is required to make it so? What is the potential demand for your innovation?

As the hotel's business increases, we are able to direct more business to our community partners. For more rapid growth and developments we need to be able to recruit trainers, a project manager dedicated to managing the projects and funds. Resources are available but we can only devote a limited amount of time to project management as we too involved in the daily operations of our own business. We will however be applying for funds to help develop the agri-tourism project with the Maroon Community. There is a growing interest in the Maroon culture as well as experiencial, soft adventure/cultural tourism. The Jamaican cuisine is now being recognised worldwide and there is a growing demand for natural, indigenous products. The government has said that tourism development in this area will focus on upmarket tourism. A number of developments currently underway which will increase the demand for our product.

How is your initiative currently financed? If available, provide information on your finances and organization that could help others. Please list: Annual budget, annual revenue generated, size of part-time, full-time and volunteer staff.

We have done all the work on an honourary basis so far. Colonel Frank Lumsden, representative of the Maroon Community and ourselves (total 3 pers.) have been doing the promotion. There is currently no pre-determined budget. We do whatever we can depending on cash flow and availability of funds.

What is your plan to expand your approach? Please indicate where/how you would like to grow or enhance your innovation, or have others do so.

Continue working with the communities that we are already associated with and then assist them to inter-link with each other. For example we purchase food supplies from 2 community projects that are located close to each other. It would serve them if they could co-ordinate their deliveries so as to avail of lower distribution costs and be more environmentally friendly in terms of food-miles and resulting carbon emissions. We would like to establish a forum with all our partners and local suppliers in terms of encouraging a productive exchange of ideas and assist our learning curve. We focus on marketing the destination as our purchasing power will increase with corresponding growth of visitors to the area. More needs to be done in this area. Finally accessing funds for rainwater harvesting and solar would help many of our partners overcome issues of water shortage and getting off the grid . Training for community members to expand their range of products.

What are the main barriers you encounter in managing, implementing, or replicating your innovation? What barriers keep your program from having greater impact?

Time and financial constraints. We have to do everything ourselves and are limited by the demands of our business to devote more time. Facilitation of meetings where community members can learn about success cases and learn how to start and develop similar partnerships would be valuable. In some instances communities need a facilitator to help them determine their strengths and unique offerings and to help them agree to a coordinated strategy. The communities first have to establish their own needs and objectives, their USPs and determine a common strategy and the various tasks and roles for themselves. The government agencies responsible for supporting community based efforts need to then respect these and work with the communities rather than trying to force them to fit in with their concepts. Far too much money has been paid to consultants who have been brought in rather than supporting the community leaders who have devoted enormous energy and time to galvanise their communities. Rather than supporting actual implementation of the plans and strategies, money seems to be spent on numerous feasibility studies and strategy recommendations which support the consultants rather than the communities who often know what they desire but do not have the necessary resources to start. More private, cross-business projects for SME's and community groups such as agriculture and tourism should be supported rather than the focus to date on NGO's who generally do not sustain themselves after the project duration. Technical and hand-holding assistance needs to be provided to communities to access funds that are available. Too often they cannot cope with the extensive documentation which is why we have undertaken it for the projects mentioned but if resources were directed to providing communities with formal facilitators for project applications, monitoring and reporting they might be able to realise their vision.

The Story
What is the origin of your innovation? Tell your story.

Growing up in developing and then later in first world countries and seen the disparities between the two as well as the negative impacts of so called “development” has motivated us and influenced us a great deal. We have seen how communities were without water while the water available was directed to the large luxury resorts. As an Indian, I have followed the success of the “Chipko” movement years ago, when women strapped themselves to the trees to prevent them being felled since they recognised the interdependence of their livelihoods and wellbeing with preserving the forests. Another example which was pivotal has been the “development” of various large dams and the Narmada Dam in India in particular which have lead to large areas being submerged and vast numbers of people being displaced and loosing their homes – and of course the gradual but noticeable global changes in weather patterns. We also lived in Germany for a long time and were very active in the “Green” movement in the late 70’s and early 80’s. We actively separated our waste, discarded unnecessary packaging at the supermarket counters, joined a group of friends who would collectively buy local seasonal food from the farmer and take it in turns to drive out there and pick it up for the group. Since living in Jamaica, we have experienced increasingly erratic weather patterns and the increase of hurricanes - and the resulting devastation wrecked by the forces of nature. We are troubled by the the challenges we face with regards to the biodiversity of flora and fauna due to heavy deforestation.
People living in abject poverty usually do not have the luxury to care about natural resources, as they worry instead about their next meal and obtaining their most basic needs. In the worst cases, their destitution leads to destruction of their environment. At the same time, however, our ability to create wealth and the economic resources that might enable those people to escape poverty will require that we use our natural resources as wisely as possible. Hence we have the doubly challenging task of making prudent use of land, air, water, forests and oceans while trying to meet the demands of an increasing number of impoverished people. We recognise the critical role that tourism can play in addressing these demands and set out to therefore operate our business along sustainable guidelines and demonstrate that even small business can make a positive contribution.
We recognise that we cannot change the world but we can try to give as much possible and help be a force for positive change in the smaller framework of our community – and especially in a country that depends so heavily on tourism as its main source of income as happens to be the case in Jamaica.
Finally, we believe that the focusing on profits as the sole purpose of business leaves a core part of ourselves empty, our souls. Is life only about earning money? Can we take it with us? What is the purpose of life? What do we leave behind that is lasting but the memory of our positive contribution? By taking a holistic approach we were able to give a soul to our business.
Last but not least, we are aware that a number of developing countries suffer from “brain drain” and although there is plenty of positive work that can be done in every country, we decided to “return “ to one of our home countries – in this case Jamaica which is Barbara’s home. As a result we started toying with the idea of developing an intimate inn / boutique hotel along sustainable guidelines and started by touring the country to select our location. We therefore consciously sought out Port Antonio, the least developed tourist region of Jamaica and set out from the start to plan and develop our business along responsible and sustainable principles. In doing so we sought to identify actions, resources and partners necessary to encourage the provision of products and services, which enhance rather than destroy the environment and culture..

I also attended a course on sustainable tourism in Germany .

Despite all the challenges, we get a sense of satisfaction of being able to give people an opportunity and our networking with various community projects that makes the hard work worthwhile because we feel we are working in keeping with our beliefs and in addition to the financial considerations of the business, there is so much more that helps to give value to our work.

Please provide a personal bio. Note this may be used in Changemakers' marketing material.

Born and educated in India. Went to Europe after studying hotel management there. Worked 18 years in Germany and attended the Heidelberg Hotel School. Attended the first course for sustainable Tourism organised by the EU. Came to Jamaica on my internship and co-authored a handbook for the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association on best practices. Opened our business, Hotel Mocking Bird Hill in 1993. We have been actively involved with the local ENGO and other organisations such as the local AIDS group as well as collaborating to establish a sustainable tourism network. We successfully applied for and managed funds in order to develop a Destination Marketing Programme with an environmental focus and conducted trainings ourselves. We were the local facilitators for a USAID sponsored programme to get the destination benchmarked as a first step to towards destination certification and continue supporting various projects and working with community groups.

Please write an overview of your project. This text will appear when people scroll over the icon for your entry on the Google map located on the competition homepage.

To provide high quality experiences, offer accommodations with simple elegance while ensuring we operate in a responsible, environmentally sound manner without sacrificing on guest comfort.
To expand the role of our business beyond that of merely a hotel by contributing to our community and to promote the development of tourism which capitalizes on the natural, cultural and historic heritage of the area by providing in-depth information to educate guests so that they can learn, appreciate, enjoy and better understand their host communities and the natural environment.
To work with other stakeholders to develop and promote community based tourism so that it contributes to make the overall industry more sustainable by increasing economic benefits for host communities and by increasing awareness of visitors to the diversity and wide range of natural experiences, culinary offerings and cultural heritage, while enhancing the quality of the tourism experience
To develop an “inclusive” tourism by involving a wide range of stakeholders in an integrated tourism development approach recommending and offering locally owned and operated small enterprises and ensuring that our type and scale of tourism is appropriate to local conditions and operates within the limits set by local infrastructure and carrying capacity.