Scientists Create Guidelines to Conserve Caribbean Coral Reefs

The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) have joined forces to create a guide to coral reef restoration designed specifically for the tourism sector.

A Guide to Coral Reef Restoration for the Tourism Sector” presents coral restoration best practices backed by scientific research, practitioner experience and stakeholder input. It addresses barriers that, up until now, have hampered the Caribbean tourism sector from engaging in efforts to conserve the marine environments that draw millions of visitors to the region annually.

TNC, UNEP and CHTA, along with the Caribbean Alliance for Sustainable Tourism (CAST)—which CHTA founded in 1997 to assess the tourism industry’s readiness, needs and willingness to play a more proactive role in managing, protecting and improving coral reefs throughout the Caribbean—teamed up on the collaboration. The guide was developed following months of surveys and discussions with Caribbean tourism industry stakeholders. It is a crucial tool that shares experiences and best practices to empower the tourism industry to participate more actively in reef conservation and bolster the region’s ability to restore coral reefs.

To create the tourism-centered coral restoration guide, it was fundamental to collect input from people whose businesses or income depend on healthy coral reefs. Interviews, surveys and focus groups were conducted with stakeholders across over 20 Caribbean countries and territories, incorporating multiple tourism sub-sectors to capture a range of perspectives–including transportation and accommodations, food and beverage, ocean and beach recreation, and others.

A study led by TNC revealed that reef-associated tourism in the Caribbean generates $8 billion per year–nearly 25 percent of all tourism expenditure–from over 11 million visitors. TNC’s “Mapping Ocean Wealth” project, which quantified the tourism value of the world’s reefs to mobilize investments in conservation, was considered a world-changing tourism initiative.

Nicola Madden-Greig, president of CHTA, said this is a critical time for tourism to play a vital role in ocean conservation. She said, “Tourism in the Caribbean, and around the world, suffered a devastating downturn with the pandemic. But as the industry regains its footing, there is a key window of opportunity to attract a wider group of consumers and protect the resources tourism depends on by offering sustainable travel options and engaging in meaningful conservation. This is where guidance from our conservation partners becomes pivotal. Many tourism businesses are adopting a sustainable approach and would like to actively contribute to coral conservation, but they don’t have the technical expertise. Or they completed a pilot reef restoration project but lack the capacity to scale up the work. As we continue to share scientific research and best practices, and to address the conservation challenges facing the tourism sector, CHTA and CAST aim to transform travel in the Caribbean, so it not only exists in harmony with our natural world but also benefits it.”

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