By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions
SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY
Going green may sound like the right thing to do but it can also be associated with being a costly burden and boring. But, as one island nation is proving, being green is a great selling point for attracting tourists and investors – especially in a world where many places are grappling with pollution and resource depletion.
St. Kitts, an island located between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, is part of the Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis and has a population of around 35,000 (stkittstourism.kn).
The country shut down its main source of income, the sugar industry, in 2005. Facing dropping profits, it decided the industry was not worth supporting anymore.
But what would be the replacement source of income and employment? St. Kitts has turned to tourism for the answer. While many other Caribbean islands have long drawn on tourism – along with banking and finance, in some cases – in order to diversify economies away from dependence on agriculture, St. Kitts had not developed this sector. As a latecomer, St. Kitts needed to think about how it could do things differently and stand out from the crowd.
St. Kitts decided to become a regional champion for green tourism and green energy, and to lure tourists to the island by championing its green credentials.
The launch in 2013 of a Euro 1.8 million (US $2.48 million) one-megawatt solar energy farm nearby the Robert L. Bradshaw International Airport (http://www.stkittstourism.kn/explore-st-kitts-getting-here-airport.php) – enough to power a few hundred houses – showed St. Kitts was getting serious about going green (http://www.cuopm.com/?m=201302&paged=13).
Joining the new solar farm, an all-green resort is hoping to further boost St. Kitts’ green credentials. The ambitious Kittitian Hill (kittitianhill.com) resort stretches across 162 hectares and includes four hotels, an organic farm and multiple restaurants. In the pipeline is a plan to open film production and editing facilities to lure movie-makers looking for a green film-making studio.
Kittitian Hill is the brainchild of property developer Val Kempadoo (http://www.linkedin.com/pub/valmiki-kempadoo/8/53a/339), who is trying to set a precedent for sustainable resorts in the Caribbean. It is being developed with a mix of foreign experts and local contractors.
The resort boasts organic food fresh from tropical farms and an on-site tropical forest, described as an “edible landscape” offering a bounty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Around the resort, “Pick Me” signs encourage visitors to pick ripe fruit and sit down and make a meal of it.
The grounds include rare and heirloom fruit trees, and the resort hopes to create a reserve to protect endangered species. To spread the green message, the plants and seeds are shared locally with farmers and others. It is part of a strategy to encourage farmers to produce organic food, avoiding pesticides and chemicals, and to farm animals ethically.
The resort’s green ethos even extends to its 18-hole golf course. Golf courses are notorious water-wasters, but this one has a smart water management system, using organic crops and fruit trees to help keep the soil moist, interweaving a farm throughout the golf course. Caddies will guide golfers to the ripest fruits while they putt their way around the course.
“My vision is to bring together community and culture, along with mindful conservation of natural resources,” said Kempadoo. “This means we can offer our guests an unforgettable experience, while bringing lasting, life-changing benefits to the local people and economy.”
As an added sweetener to get investment coming in, St. Kitts and Nevis offers citizenship to investors in the country. In return, investors can travel visa-free to 120 countries – something that has appealed to investors from around the global South.
“It is important for St. Kitts to be selective and careful about development and focus on high-end rather than high-volume tourism,” Kempadoo told Monocle magazine. “The best asset of this island is its natural beauty, and we want to preserve it.”
1) The International Ecotourism Society: The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting ecotourism. Website: https://www.ecotourism.org/what-is-ecotourism
2) Top Five Eco Resorts of Mexico: Website: http://www.ecotourismtrips.org/topics/show/3809
3) 3 Rivers Dominica Eco Lodge: “An award-winning range of comfortable and charming self-contained cottages, nature, adventure and community-based ecotourism activities, restaurant, rivers and relaxation”. Website: http://www.3riversdominica.com/
4) Jungle Bay Resort and Spa: Award-winning Jungle Bay was built and is operated in alignment with international Geotourism and Ecotourism guidelines. As an alternative to traditional Caribbean tourism, the focus is on enjoyable nature-based activities and wellness of guests with quality service, guided by the principles as set by both National Geographic’s Center for Sustainable Destinations and The International Ecotourism Society (TIES). Website: junglebaydominica.com
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