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Program Aims to Position British Virgin Islands as Sustainable Destination


TORTOLA, BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS—During a recent press conference, the British Virgin Islands (BVI) Tourist Board launched the Sustainable Tourism Environmental Program (STEP) alongside Hugh Cresser, a consultant from the firm Tetra Tech who specializes in sustainable tourism management and planning. Tetra Tech has been contracted by the British Virgin Islands Tourist Board to implement the project. The company specializes in consulting, engineering, program management, construction and technical services, and supports government and commercial clients by providing solutions focused on water, the environment, and energy.

“Our environment is the biggest drawing card that we have and everybody has to do their part to be responsible in it,” said Natasha Chalwell, Policy and Product Development Manager at the BVI Tourist Board. “We’re asking everyone to join in. You may not feel that what you’re doing is important, but if everybody does it you’re going to see change affected.”

Water, energy and recycling are three common words that were once primarily associated with grassroots organizations keen on increasing measures to improve environments, but they have steadily been used by communities, governments and businesses worldwide to create awareness amongst all people on the importance of saving the environment and using green practices throughout one’s everyday life. Tetra Tech’s Cresser foresees the BVI becoming the blueprint for sustainable tourism in the region.

“The launching of this program is the beginning of a process,” Cresser said. “This is probably one of the finest destinations anywhere and I think it is poised for greater things.”

Commitments Needed from Public/Private Sector

Developing sustainable practices will involve a number of steps and commitments from both the public and private sector and a collective effort will be needed to generate action to improve the mindsets and habits of people to move forward in improving and maintaining the territory’s heritage, culture and natural beauty.

In the initial stages a series of main objectives will be carried out, which include repositioning the BVI in the global marketplace as a destination committed to sustainable development; introducing sustainable tourism practices to the accommodations sector; familiarizing the BVI Tourist Board staff with sustainable tourism practices and international certification requirements; introducing environmental management systems (EMS) within the hotel sector (pilot project); and identifying programs and initiatives that can be implemented to sustain the BVI Tourist Board sustainable program.

Under this initiative, four pilot properties will immediately begin taking part in STEP: Agape Cottages, Myett’s Garden Inn, Serendipity House and Gordian House will be the first to participate in an environmental awareness process. The Tetra Tech team will look into how the environment has been impacted and investigate how each property manages waste, wastewater, chemical and energy usage. The team will also provide each property with standard operating best practices that are instrumental for each property becoming sustainable and in addition provide training for members of staff at the properties. The company will further assist in providing a list of environmentally safe products and encourage them to purchase, where possible, products from manufacturers/suppliers who implement sustainable practices within their operations.

‘Going Green’ No Longer Buzz Phrase

“We’re taking a very holistic approach and although our focus is on tourism, we’re going to be inviting all the other sectors and stakeholders,” Cresser said. “We’ll be working with the schools, looking at environmental programs and letting them understand sustainable tourism and sustainable development and also give them the opportunity to realize that there is a future and possible careers within the tourism sector. Fifteen years ago going green was a buzz phrase; it’s not a buzz phrase again. It’s a necessity, especially for destinations that are dependent on tourism. We are selling the environment. If we don’t maintain it and sustain it and treat it well, then in another 10 to 15 years we’ll have nothing to sell.”

The BVI Tourist Board and staff will be integral in leading the territory through becoming a sustainable destination and obtaining the training and qualifications needed to see the program through to completion. On completion of the project, the pilot properties will have the option of becoming green certified.

“Learning how to save, reuse, reduce and recycle are measures that will allow us to collectively maintain a clean and sustainable British Virgin Islands,” said Hadassah Ward, Director of Tourism. “One of the things that I’m very excited about is that this is something we’re enabling our small properties to do and it will not only help them as businesses, but it will assist them in saving costs and provide them with another marketing tool. I hope that everyone realizes that sustainable living has to be a way of life in order for it to be successful.”

Go to the British Virgin Islands Tourist Board.