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Latin American Eco-HubsApril 15, 2010 By: Joe Pike Travel Agent
The Lodge at Chaa Creek is the first Belizean property to achieve Green Globe Benchmarked Bronze status
The elite green tourist spots of Costa Rica now have rivals in Belize, which has very quietly made strides within the past few years to make a case as a green force to be reckoned with in Central and South America.
Here are the measures Belize has undertaken recently to become a major green tourism player in the region, and also some reasons why Costa Rica still reigns.
Green Globe-Certified Hotels
In 2008, The Lodge at Chaa Creek became the first Belizean property to achieve the prestigious Green Globe Benchmarked Bronze status. The resort is committed to benchmarking its energy and water consumption, total waste production and community commitment, besides implementing an integrated environmental and social policy. These measures will ensure efficient practices and large cost savings.
Travel Agent has also learned that Hamanasi Adventure & Dive Resort, in the town of Hopkins in Stann Creek District, is close to becoming the first beachfront property in Belize to be Green Globe-certified.
The Belize Tourism Board and the University of Belize are collaborating with the Coral Reef Alliance to draft a voluntary agreement that administers the implementation of the CORAL Reef Leadership Network—a program designed to enable local tour operators and marine park managers to spread the word about sustainable marine recreation practices. It will be incorporated as an educational component of the Belize National Tour Guide Training Program.
Advanced marine-tour guide training will be provided in areas of coral-reef ecology, coral-reef threats, the importance of protected areas for reef conservation, rules and regulations of a marine-protected area, boating and navigation, solutions for sustainable business operations, and marketing for conservation.
The University of Belize and the Coral Reef Alliance partners will co-host all sustainable marine recreation courses for local tour guides in San Pedro, Caye Caulker, Belize City and Placencia.
Costa Rica Reigns
In 1977, Costa Rica made an unprecedented move by declaring 25 percent of its land a conservation area. Today, 26 percent of its land is made up of 28 national parks as well as wildlife refuges and private reserves. Among these are three turtle conservation areas for leatherback and green sea turtles (Ostional, Las Baulas, Tortuguero), two marine conservation areas (Las Baulas, Ballena) and ground zero for Earth’s shark population.
Costa Rica has some of the world’s most beautiful natural beaches, many of which have received the Ecological Blue Flag award. These identify beaches where the local community has strived to maintain the best conditions for tourists.
In fact, the Blue Flag program provides strong incentives to hotels, local tourism boards and coastal communities to work together to protect the beaches. The Blue Flag is an adaptation of a successful program of the same name launched in Europe in 1985. The Ecological Blue Flag is awarded following an evaluation of the microbiological quality of the ocean and drinking water, coastal sanitation and environmental education, among other aspects.
Lodging the Costa Rican Way
Some of the country’s most well-known eco-lodges include Finca Rosa Blanca, the country’s first “five-leaf” property, and also its first boutique hotel; Lapa Rios, which many experts consider the country’s crowning jewel of ecotourism; The Harmony Hotel, also a five-leaf hotel; Arenas del Mar, the newest five-leaf property; and La Cusinga Lodge, a well-being retreat on the lower mid-Pacific coast that boasts the accessibility of Manuel Antonio but also the isolation and biodiversity of the Osa Peninsula.
Punta Islita is a luxury hotel in the Nicoya Peninsula that has the most expansive social sustainability program in Costa Rica. The community initiatives singlehandedly repopulated the region, which had once seen large-scale migration of locals in search of opportunities.
Hamanasi is set to become the first beachfront property in Belize with a Green Globe certification