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

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

Port Antonio, Jamaica
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

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

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 ...

About You
Contact Information
Title

Ms

First name

Shireen

Last name

Aga

Your job title

Manager

Name of your organization

Hotel Mocking Bird Hill

Organization type

Organization Type

Annual budget/currency

Annual Budget/Currency

Mailing address

Mailing Address

Telephone number

Telephone Number

Postal/Zip Code
Country
Alternative email address

Alternative email address

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

Drapers Heights, Wiliamsfield District

City

Port Antonio

State/Province

Portland

Postal/Zip Code
Country
Geotourism Challenge Addressed by Entrant

Quality of tourist experience and educational benefit to tourists , Quality of benefit to residents for the destination , Quality of tourism management by destination leadership , Quality of stewardship of the destination.

Organization size

Small (1 to 100 employees)

Indicate sector in which you principally work

Tourism-related business

Year innovation began

1993

Indicate sector in which you principally work

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Innovation
What is the goal of your innovation? Please describe in one sentence the kind of impact, change, or reform your approach is intended to achieve.

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

Please write an overview of your project. Include how your approach supports or embodies geotourism or destination stewardship. This text will appear when people scroll over the icon for your entry on the map located on the competition homepage.

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.

Explain in detail why your approach is innovative

Our values regarding sustainable business practices permeate planning, policy, product development, marketing and services. It is the foundation for our comprehensive, strategic planning and management of resources 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, making the our small scale an asset. We converted a private residence rather than building new to minimise construction pollution. We carefully choose the services we offer and those we consciously do not provide, avoiding problems rather than finding solutions to them. We analyse the alternatives for every decision ensuring prudent use of natural resources, continuously reviewing new technologies and working to improve efficiency. We adhere to strict purchasing policies (local and organic as far as possible) standards and practices such as recycling, minimising solid waste, avoidance of toxic chemicals. From the inception we have opted for long term solutions rather than short term profits. An example is our investment 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 rainwater harvesting capacity and use of renewable energy.

IDB/Fomin
Si perteneces a un pais de Latinoamerica y el Caribe tienes la oportunidad de presentar tu iniciativa para acceder a fondos para innovaciones en turismo sostenible del BID/FOMIN (para mayor informacion leer la seccion sobre la oportunidad BID/FOMIN en la pagina principal del Desafio).

Deseo postularme.

Si perteneces a un pais de Latinoamerica y el Caribe tienes la oportunidad de presentar tu iniciativa para acceder a fondos para innovaciones en turismo sostenible del BID/FOMIN (para mayor informacion leer la seccion sobre la oportunidad BID/FOMIN en la pagina principal del Desafio).

Consumidores (viajeros).

Indica cuales de estas tematicas cubre tu innovacion (elige todas aquellas opciones que apliquen)

Cartografía.

Impact
Describe the degree of success you have had to date. How do you measure, both quantitatively and qualitatively, the impact on sustainability or enhancement of local culture, environment, heritage, or aesthetics? How has it transformed or contributed to the power of place or demonstrated the sustainability of tourism? How does your approach minimize negative impacts?

We applied for and secured funding on behalf of the women’s handmade paper making project in Fairy Hill. They purchased equipment, received marketing assistance and attended seminars on operating a small business and 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 take journalists there to raise awareness of their cultural history. We purchase their produce and work together to develop agri-tourism. The village of Tom's Hope has been the source of a lot of fresh produce for years. We organise hikes there and visitors are escorted by the farmers providing an additional income source. All these linkages direct income flows to these communities. We have accessed funds from development programmes by contributing technical assistance on an honorary basis for literacy, vocational training and environmental awareness building. We have hosted the seminars complimentary and also conducted environmental awareness seminars in the communities ourselves. The ongoing support over the years has built up the trust base which is in itself is a measure of success in this long term process.

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

We develop and market tour packages based on whatever opportunities the communities develop. We seek to enhance the linkages to secure the financial viability of their efforts. Guest feedback is shared with them and they consider how they can respond and meet the requests. New ideas evolve in discussions with them. We work together on developing partnerships between ourselves and the communities Testimonials from communities express their appreciation for our assistance and incremental income earned as a result of our long standing cooperation. Plans evolve organically through ongoing dialogue and sharing of our joint experiences.

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, 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. Guests enjoy the authenticity and naturalness of these very personal exchanges.

Describe how your work helps travelers and local residents better understand the value of the area's cultural and natural heritage, and educates them on local environmental issues.

Interaction between visitors and community members provides insights. The guides explain what they are doing, outline their challenges and goals as well as their achievements. We raise environmental and social issues with our guests in conversation and on our website. Information is disseminated in the welcome packs and guest information folders in the rooms as well as on our website. Opportunities for visitors to contribute towards various programmes such as supporting the school programme ENOUGH or offseting their carbon emissions by contributing to the local reforestation programme are provided.

Sustainability
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. We have financed the development of a new website www.jamaicaexplorations.com through cash flow.The Maroons community has accessed funding from various organizations to develop agri-tourism and establish a small museum. They continue to seek further funding.

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

Yes as there is a growing demand for learning, special interest and community based tourism. We can only devote a limited amount of time to project management as we very involved in the daily operations of our own business. To ensure the organizational and financial sustainability of our efforts, technical and financial assistance is required to help the communities develop their projects in a strategic manner as well as provide trainers for capacity building, tour guiding, interpretational and crafts making skills as well as get funds to develop their attractions further and develop mutually beneficial destination marketing.

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. Lack of funds to help the communities develop their attractions and provide the necessary training as well as equip them with basic marketing tools. Business levels have declined given the global economic crisis and the communities do not enjoy enough business to make the enterprise economically viable or enable them to invest in developing the projects further. Insufficient destination marketing to promote the experiences.

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

We have recently developed a new website www.jamaicaexplorations to help promote the experiences and the destination. We would like to enhance and increase marketing and promotion o0f the initiatives to generate more business thus ensuring their economic sustainability.

The Story
What is the origin of your innovation? Tell the Changemakers and media communities what prompted you to start this initiative.

Growing up in developing and then later in developed countries and seeing the disparities between the two as well as the negative impacts of “development” motivated us a great deal. While living in Germany we were very active in the “Green” movement. 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 challenges faced regarding biodiversity due to heavy deforestation. People living in poverty do not have the luxury to care about natural resources, they worry instead about their next meal and 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 requires that we use our natural resources wisely. We have the doubly challenging task of making prudent use of our resources while trying to meet the demands of poverty alleviation. We recognise the critical role that tourism plays in addressing these demands and therefore operate our business along sustainable guidelines and demonstrate that even small businesses 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 –especially in a country that depends so heavily on tourism as its main source of income. Finally, we believe that the focusing on profits as the sole purpose of business leaves a core part of ourselves empty. By taking a holistic approach we are 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. We started toying with the idea of developing a boutique hotel along sustainable guidelines and toured the country to select our location. We consciously chose 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 identified actions, resources and partners necessary to encourage the provision of products and services, which enhance rather than destroy the environment and culture. We get a sense of satisfaction of being able to give people an opportunity.Our networking with various community projects makes the hard work worthwhile because we are working in keeping with our beliefs.

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

Born and educated in India, studied hotel management. Worked 18 years in Germany, attended the Heidelberg Hotel School. Attended the first course for Sustainable Tourism organised by the EU and co-authored a handbook for the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association on best practices. Opened Hotel Mocking Bird Hill in 1993. Involved with local ENGO and other organisations. Successfully applied for and managed funds for a Destination Marketing Programme with an environmental focus. Conducted community trainings. Local facilitator for a USAID sponsored programme for destination benchmarkin, the first step to towards destination certification. Support various community projects.

Describe some unique tourist experiences that your approach provides. Be specific; give illustrative examples.

Hiking in the Rio Grande Valley with a local farmer as the guide offers our visitors insights into rural life in Jamaica. The farmers have a keen, natural knowledge of the local flora and fauna which they share with visitors. The hike goes through forest and farmland and visitors discover the real Jamaica never seen by tourists in the main resort areas. Our visitors have the opportunity to visit CharlesTown and meet the Maroons and their Colonel, Frank Lumsden. They can visit the museum at the Safu Yard and hike with the Colonel to the little known of ruins of an 18th century coffee plantation which offers an insight to Jamaica during the colonial days. For small groups the Maroons will prepare a traditional lunch and will perform their traditional drumming and dancing as part of their efforts to share their history and culture. We encourage our guests to go to a Pentecostal church service during their stay where they can share and experience the intensity of religious belief felt by many Jamaicans. Guests can discover 28 Jamaican endemic birds accompanied by national park rangers.

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

Providing opportunities for fair trade while demonstrating that preserving our environment and cultural heritage to ensure the attractiveness of the destination and provides the main incentives for visitors to come. Developing experiences with partners that tap into the unique attributes of the destination without destroying the natural environment.. Joint destination marketing will be mutually benefial and thus ensure a wide spread of the tourism dollar. 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.