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 recent years, as the project evolved, the project scope has been expanded to encompass – among other activities – an integrated, environmental destination program for the Port Antonio area.
The goal of USAID/Jamaica’s environment program has been to improve natural resources quality in selected areas across Jamaica. Major project activities have focused on improving wastewater management, helping the government develop environmental policies, and promoting environmental best practices in coastal zone management, watershed management, and sustainable tourism. EAST project objectives:
• Demonstrate the benefits of improved environmental management in the hotel/tourist industry and manufacturing sector.
• Identify environmental champions in the hotel and manufacturing industries who will promote and encourage adoption of best environmental management practices by others in their industries.
• Build the capabilities of both Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association and the Jamaica Manufacturers Association to offer environmental management services. • Work with vocational and tertiary institutions to include best environmental management practices in their hospitality and tourism curricula. • Transfer the lessons learned from the first phase of the project to other businesses in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean.
• Design and implement a pilot plan for Port Antonio/Portland as a model for a sustainable tourism destination program
The EAST Project was implemented in three phases. The first identified the overall tourism product, developed training and environmental testing technologies, demonstrated the effectiveness of Environmental Management Systems (EMS) as a tool for cutting operating costs at five hotels in Jamaica, and pursued Green Globe Certification for these hotels. During Phase 2, EMS work and certification continued, EMS was demonstrated further in tourism facilities and attractions and initiated within the manufacturing...