However, I realized that the things that moved me most were the cultural memories of my childhood in West Africa. The plantain and chicken stews, tropical gardens with hibiscus palms, drumming, and the warmth from the locals. Three years later, my corporate legal career was over, and I set out on the road to fulfilling my dreams of becoming a travel writer/photographer in The Caribbean.
It’s easy to escape to the Caribbean with over 20 islands and hundreds of beaches just a short flight from North America. The Caribbean Islands are still among the most appealing destinations for Americans and Canadians looking for an escape from the chaos of the global pandemic. Because most Caribbean countries are separated by water, the region has a lower incidence of COVID-19 infection than the rest of the globe.
The Caribbean is the most vulnerable and dependent region on tourism in the world, but this is what most people don’t realize. 8 are the Caribbean, one of the 10 top destinations in the world that most depend on tourism for employment. The negative effects of mass tourism on this region include the unabated construction of large, foreign-owned resorts in the coastal areas and the expansion of cruise travel. These developments have caused serious socioeconomic and environmental problems.
Large resorts, for example, have contributed to coastal erosion by being too close to the coastline. They also cause a commodity shortage in the surrounding communities, such as power and water. In the past, cruise lines have also caused increased plastic pollution and illegal dumping in the Caribbean.
Climate change is also a major threat to the Caribbean islands. Between 2025 and 2050, the World Tourism and Travel Council predicts that the Caribbean will be the most vulnerable tourism destination. Studies also showed that by 2050, at least 60% of resorts would be at risk from rising sea levels. Coral bleaching and acidification are two consequences of rising temperatures and higher levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This has adversely affected the Caribbean’s coral reefs.
The greatest threat is the inability to transfer significant economic benefits from tourism into local economies. Most tourists book tours or stay at all-inclusive resorts. Did you know that 80% of all-inclusive resort reservations made online go to foreign corporations overseas, not the local economy?
What does all this mean? Every decision you make on your Caribbean vacation, whether supporting a hotel that uses solar energy and recycles water, or choosing a tour operator and packing reef-safe sunscreen, will have a significant impact.
With the current economic crisis in the Caribbean compounded by the pandemic and other factors, we must rethink how we travel the Caribbean. The region should not be viewed as something we abuse or use but as a unique place with unique inhabitants that needs preservation. It deserves protection from environmental abuses and overtourism as any other major European destination.
Independent travelers can change the direction of their favorite tropical vacation area in the coming years. Do you want to enjoy rum, cocktails, fine sand, and other delicious treats? It’s okay to enjoy rum, cocktails, and fine sand. But, make sure you are making choices that will lead to a healthier, greener, and more culture-rich region in the future. This is where tourism benefits communities.
These are nine ways to explore the Caribbean sustainably once normal travel resumes.
You can stay in small hotels, guest lodges or hostels run by community members.
There are many amazing places to stay in the Caribbean, including guesthouses, hostels, villas, boutique hotels, villas, rainforest lodges, and guesthouses. These accommodations can be rented by long-term residents or locals who want to make you feel at home in your community. You get a more authentic cultural experience with local food and expert guides.
Community-run lodging is also available. These lodges and guesthouses are often located in the natural surroundings of the members. They operate exactly like private lodges. You can enjoy a real stay while the income is shared equally among all members. This is a win-win situation.
Staying local is a great way to support the local economy. It ensures that your travel dollars reach the people in need, from the farmer who supplies the hotel to the tour guide who receives repeat business.
You will need to do additional research to find these types of locally-owned or locally invested accommodation.
Contact the destination’s tourism office to get recommendations for hotels in the area you are interested in. You can also check their website for hotel listings.
You can also find a few local guesthouses on Booking.com. But it would help if you searched for the property’s website to get more details and book directly through it.
Third, depending upon the destination, unique properties can be listed on TripAdvisor.com under the “B&B & Inns” category.
It would help if you also searched for local news outlets or blogs in your destination. These often cover domestic tourism and feature more locally-owned properties.
Use local transportation: Bike, walk or cycle.
It is increasingly popular to tour the Caribbean on two wheels. Swap safari trucks for biking tours on your next trip. Bike Barbados is an excellent example. You can rent various bikes from the shop in St. Lawrence Gap on the main tourist drag and then cycle along Barbados’s varied coastline before returning to the beach. This is a great way for locals to meet new people, discover hidden corners, and see a different side of the destination. There are also other established bike tours companies in the Caribbean:
Ask your hotel staff whether they have bicycles available for rent or free. You can ask for recommendations for local bike shops if they don’t.
Public transportation is a great way to save the environment and help the local economy. It will give you a glimpse into island life and show how people move around. You might also discover hidden gems along the way.