We believe that good destination stewardship depends on shared responsibility among local government, tourism businesses, communities, and our guests. As such, we are proactively: Investing in practical tools and projects that will help destination managers to embed sustainability in their own policies and planning as well as encouraging and supporting our shore excursion operators to improve their sustainable business practices.
Helping care for and protect the places we visit – destination stewardship – is one of the areas in which we have set demanding sustainability goals to meet over the next several years. With guidance from the World Wildlife Fund we have embarked on an industry leading path towards destination stewardship in two key areas – tours and destinations.
Both paths endorse the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, the leading global sustainable standard-setting body for tourism. Sponsored by the United Nations World Tourism Organization, and backed by stakeholders worldwide, GSTC’s standard includes 40 principles and additional indicators that regard sustainability in a holistic sense, not just from an environmental perspective.
As part of our 5-year global partnership announced in 2016, we have committed to ensure 1,000 of our destination tours come from operators certified as environmentally, socially and culturally sustainable practitioners following the GSTC standard.
Prospective tour operators will be brought up to speed on our certification requirements, in part by information now included in our requests for proposals and an educational aspect also is aimed at guests.
The second path includes supporting GSTC destination assessments of two of our ports of call as well as our own private destinations by the end of 2017. These assessments aim to identify sustainability and environmental threats and develop corrective action plans in concert with destination managers and local stakeholders. Additionally by 2018, we will set a target for those private destinations to become GSTC Certified.
As a sailor, Environmental Officer Peter Roy knew that there were used sails from sailboats across the Caribbean that were often replaced following the season or a regatta. With regular calls to Labadee, Haiti, Royal Caribbean’s private destination on the north coast of Haiti, Roy also was aware that the picturesque fishing boats used by locals for their daily catch ran on pieced together sails.
It occurred to Roy that he and Royal Caribbean International’s Harmony of the Seas had an opportunity to transport gently-used sails from Harmony’s port of calls in Fort Lauderdale, St. Thomas and St. Maarten to fisherman on the north coast of Haiti.
After coordinating with local yacht clubs, the program began late in 2016 and due to its consistent itinerary, will run year-round carrying sails from throughout the Caribbean to local fisherman.
Our connections with Haiti are strong. We have had a permanent home on the North part of the country since 1988, and we are working together with organizations such at the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF) to promote greater development and infrastructure for the region. The most recent initiative – a sanitation project - ensures the 6,000 residents of Labadie Village have access to clean water and other basic services through an upgraded water reservoir, a refurbished clean water kiosk and a new water catchment system.
By protecting the water supply and improving the area’s infrastructure, the sanitation project has reduced the risk of community-based disease outbreaks. Additionally, the project installed solar water pumps, repaired water storage tanks, cleaned water collection receptacles to reduce the risk of contamination and planted more than 8,000 trees to protect the local watershed.
The construction of several facilities including community showers, a fish breeding pond and dozens of laundry stations also has served to ease residents’ lives and make them more resistant to potential health threats.
The sound of basketballs hitting the ground never sounded so good for the kids at the R. N. Gomez All Age School in CocoCay. Thanks to our contributions, the school’s basketball court was repaired this year, giving students a proper place to build friendships and have fun. Along with the renovated court, we donated all equipment including balls and nets.
The small reparation impacted the lives of about 170 kids, inspiring and motivating them to achieve their full potential on and off the court. But this is just one of many ways we have supported the school this year.
We know that a successful school day begins with a nourished body, so we donated three water dispensers to ensure students could have access to clean drinking water and annually contribute 80 percent of the food needed for their annual school fair, as well as all of the disposables and condiments. We also provided lunch for the 3rd Annual Fun Run, hosted by the non-profit organization Ripples of Hope, and facilitated one of our ship guests in providing a donation for the event’s silent auction.
From making sure all students receive Christmas gifts to hosting a group of 12th grade seniors at CocoCay, our goal is to put a smile on these kids’ faces. Through our contributions and dedication, we will continue to work toward that goal, hoping its impact is broad and long-lasting.
Destinations are the biggest highlight of a cruise vacation, guests want to explore and discover new cultures and locations and we want to do our part to make sure that these destinations continue to thrive. 2015 marked the completion of a five-year program aimed at increasing the number of sustainable tours available to the company’s five million annual guests. An important part of RCL’s overall Save the Waves program, this commitment serves to protect the destinations the company’s ships visit and raise awareness among its guests by designating tours which have been verified to an international standard. We are incredibly proud of the nearly 70 tour operators that have been with us on this journey which first started in 2010. Their vision and foresight for sustainable and responsible operations in their countries is a real step forward for sustainable tourism.
RCL worked with Sustainable Travel International to develop the Sustainable Tourism Education Program (STEP) Sustainable Shore Excursion Standard, a set of criteria and indicators for sustainable shore excursions that are designed to help identify providers who offer high-quality shore excursions that also support local communities and conserve the environment. The criteria developed helps identify sustainable shore excursions, which are more than just nature tours – they encompass a broader category that includes tours that responsibly manage environmental impacts, preserve local history and cultures, protect the rights and resources of the local community and have properly trained employees committed to quality service. These standards which represents a diverse and global membership, including UN agencies, leading travel companies, hotels, country tourism boards, tour operators, individuals and communities – all striving to achieve best practices in sustainable tourism.
But tours are just one piece of the sustainable destinations, as such we continue to be active members of the Sustainable Destinations Alliance for the Americas (SDAA) in partnership with the Caribbean Tourism Organization, the Organization of American States (OAS) and Sustainable Travel International. The Alliance seeks to improve the way tourism is managed and to enhance the global competitiveness of the region, by embedding sustainability into the day-to-day management and marketing of destinations. While the geographic focus for the first two years of work is the Caribbean and Central America, our shared vision is to expand the initiative, over time, to encompass more than 30 tourism destinations in the Americas.
The last piece of the puzzle, involves funding through grants to assist three destinations in implementing sustainable tourism projects. In 2015 we continued to support three such projects throughout the Caribbean:
In Roatán, the grant supported a Rapid Sustainable Destination Diagnostic™ (RDD), which is a destination sustainability assessment applying internationally recognized criteria. A stakeholder engagement process was facilitated for planning and developing a practical action agenda. The action agenda identified good practices and areas for improvement, to demonstrate tangible and measurable results— most notably the establishment of a new destination management organization.
Sustainable Travel International, in partnership with the Mesoamerican Reef Tourism Initiative (MARTI) and the local government, has brought destination stakeholders together to develop their first destination level action agenda for destination sustainability. Further work is underway to help guide the local government and MARTI in assessing the feasibility of launching a destination quality and sustainability standard for hotels and tour operators.
In St. Kitts, a grant supported online training for 30 government officials in sustainable tourism and sustainable destination management. The funding also sponsored an in-person training session in St. Kitts for 20 public and private sector officials, with specialized training modules on marine conservation and cruise destination stewardship.