Jamaica: Environmental Audits for Sustainable Tourism (East) Project

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Jamaica: Environmental Audits for Sustainable Tourism (East) Project

By | December 2012
Page 1 of 5
Background
Jamaica’s economy is heavily dependent on tourism, which is the nation’s leading generator of foreign exchange earnings and revenue. Given the competitive nature of tourism in the Caribbean region, this sector is especially vulnerable to any degradation of its coastal resources. In recent years, negative impacts from poorly planned urban and tourism developments (poor solid waste and wastewater management practices, for example) have affected water quality and near shore ecosystems, especially in the important north and northwestern tourism destinations of Negril, Ocho Rios, and Montego Bay. In self-preservation, Jamaica’s tourism industry has had to address the impacts of its own operations on the natural resources that sustain its wellbeing. In other locations, such as Port Antonio in the northeastern parish of Portland, tourism and the general economy have been in steady decline. With both the railroad and local airport closed, the area is a mountainous road trip of 2-1/2 hours from Kingston. Capturing only 15,000 visitors out of an annual total of approximately 1.3 million to the island in recent years, and with occupancy rates significantly below 20 percent, some of the area’s hotels and attractions have closed their doors, and many workers have migrated to other parts of the island in search of jobs. This is especially ironic in that Portland Parish was the birthplace of tourism in Jamaica, and was a favorite destination for Hollywood stars and writers in the 1950s and 1960s.

In 1997, with support from regional and local environmental initiatives (Caribbean Hotel Association/Caribbean Alliance for Sustainable Tourism, and the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association), USAID launched a new, collaborative partnership to fund the introduction of environmental management systems and best practices in small (less than 100 rooms), locally owned hotels, which comprise more than three-quarters of all hotel properties in Jamaica. In...