Destination Barbados, the up-and-coming sustainable destination, is a favorite among US travelers for its white sandy beaches and deep-rooted culture. Recently awarded Green Destination of the Year by Green Destinations at ITB in Berlin, we’re taking a closer look at this destination paradise.
Under the leadership of Prime Minister Mia Mottley, Barbados has been vocal about the threat of global warming to small island destinations. The government has bold plans to reduce food and energy dependence as part of its sustainable development strategy.
Tourism is a vital part of the national economy, with the destination management organization focused on promoting environmental stewardship and Bajan identity. We can expect to hear more about the destination’s sustainable tourism goals and strategies in the years to come.
Join us as we explore Destination Barbados’ sustainability efforts and hear from those making it happen on the ground.
Destination Barbados Changemaker Stories
Barbados is known for its beautiful beaches and vibrant tourism industry. However, like many small island nations, it faces significant sustainability challenges, from climate change to energy and food security. One changemaker who is working to address these challenges is Mahmood Patel, founder of Coco Hill Forest.
Ché Greenidge, the Executive Director of the Barbados Environmental Conservation Trust (BECT), shares her personal journey towards sustainability, the actions BECT is taking to promote sustainability from the grassroots level, and the challenges facing Barbados in terms of sustainability.
Ronnie Carrington, a talented photographer and videographer, showcases the natural environment, local culture, and community of Barbados. Ronnie shares how he incorporates sustainability practices into his photography tours while capturing the breathtaking beauty of the island. He also reflects on the tourism industry in Barbados and the necessary steps towards a more sustainable future.
Dr. Jens Thraenhart is a visionary in sustainable tourism, having spearheaded initiatives that have transformed the way the world thinks about responsible travel. As CEO of Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. Jens shares his experience of working with the Caribbean island. And he presents the Be Bajan concept as a smart combination of place brand development and community-centered, authentic travel promotion.
Ian McNeel, founder of the Walkers Institute for Regeneration Research Education and Design Inc. (WIRRED) and The Local Barbados restaurant, is on a mission to foster sustainability and engagement for a regenerative future on the beautiful island of Barbados. As a sustainability advocate and entrepreneur, Ian’s innovative solutions are addressing environmental, social, and economic challenges in the Caribbean region.
Why does Destination Barbados focus on sustainability?
The Barbadian economy relies heavily on tourism, accounting for 14.4% of its GDP in 2021 (WTTC). This makes it vulnerable to shocks like pandemic-induced travel restrictions and climate change.
Especially rising sea levels are a growing threat to the community and economy on the island, together with hurricanes, coastal inundation and erosion. Not good for a destination famous for its sandy beaches. Add to this high dependency on food and energy imports and it is clear why Barbados is serious about becoming the first fossil-fuel free island state by 2030. Good for the climate and less costly.
As a tourist destination, Barbados now focuses on striking a balance between nature’s needs and community’s wants. The challenge is to develop an industry that can provide a sustainable income to those involved locally, while safeguarding the resources tourism experiences depend on. Regenerative tourism development is the goal.
How Barbados approaches sustainability
Besides making sustainable and regenerative tourism a key component of its economic development strategy, Barbados is putting a special emphasis on its Bajan culture, in an attempt to strengthen its cultural identity and highlight what the country stands for. Below a few of the initiatives to strengthen social sustainability in Barbados.
- Barbados encourages community-driven tourism. Visitors can get their hands “dirty” and volunteer while vacationing: coral restoration, community planting, turtle rescue, marine conservation, and other activities to restore the natural environment.
- The country is reclaiming abandoned railway networks for community activities like cycling, hiking, and jogging.
- The rich Bajan culture and heritage are given stronger emphasis in national tourism policy development. The idea is to reduce poverty through skill development and job creation, with the added benefit of safeguarding knowledge and traditions of ancestors.
- Barbados recently partnered with major cruise lines to have them employ more local talent. The partnership provides jobs to local citizens and assists cruise lines with filling open positions, especially post-pandemic.
To equitably distribute tourism revenue, Barbados is planning on developing the Bajan Treasures Collection initiative, with planned phased launches starting later in 2023. The idea is to address seasonality and overcrowding by promoting low-season travel. Small enterprises across the island participate all year round in this unique network. The results are promising: a stronger tourism economy through year-round income, increased business resilience for SMEs, and extensive marketing and partnership opportunities for tourism actors that might otherwise not have the clout or pockets to reach international markets.
Being an import-dependent economy with little oil reserves to power the nation, and limited land to achieve food security, Barbados has an exceedingly high import bill at the mercy of global markets and trends. To achieve energy and food self-sufficiency, Barbados is on an ambitious mission to become the first carbon-neutral island state by 2030, through the Barbados National Energy Policy. Tourism will be impacted, especially in the following areas:
- Achieve greener mobility by encouraging greater uptake of electric or hybrid vehicles
- Improve energy conservation (EC) and efficiency (EE) through phase-outs of inefficient lighting and appliances, and establishing standards to promote high-efficiency products
- Incentivise decarbonisation, by providing technical and financial support (grants, loans, tax rebates and exemptions, import duty exemptions)
- Phase-out fossil fuel-based power generation and single-use plastic
Like many other destinations, Barbados faces the issue that much of the revenue generated on-site does not stay in the community. That’s why the Barbados Tourism Master Plan strongly supports investing in and developing local brands, products and enterprises. One example of such an initiative is the “Brands of Barbados” campaign, where products are promoted through the “100% Bajan” and “Buy Bajan” taglines. Hopefully this will encourage visitors to buy locally produced goods.