Biosphere destination Principe Island
Destination Príncipe: Sustainable Tourism Strategies, Stories and Examples

The little-known African country of São Tomé and Príncipe is a former Portuguese colony comprised by two islands, the smaller of which – Principe – is eager to build itself a reputation as a destination firmly committed to sustainable practices: a biosphere reserve attracting environmentally conscious, discerning travelers from around the world. But what exactly are the challenges of building and managing a remote island destination sustainably? To get answers to those and other questions, we caught up with Príncipe tourism leaders and sustainability changemakers.

With thanks to TAP Portugal and HBD Príncipe for financially supporting our visit and facilitating our interviews with the destination’s leading entrepreneurs and champions of tourism sustainability.

How Príncipe is championing sustainability:

  • With the active participation of locals and the regional administration, the small African island south of Ghana and to the west of Angola, Príncipe earned the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve status, recognizing its commitment to nature conservation and sustainable development.
  • The Responsible Príncipe Certification supports and celebrates experience providers and local producers who comply with the principles of responsibility and sustainability.
  • As the first hotel in Africa to be certified through the Biosphere Responsible Tourism Standard, Bom Bom Island Resort is not just a stunning accommodation experience, but also works towards minimising its dependence on diesel, in addition to its firm commitment to using local produce and employing locals.
  • Tourism development in Príncipe Island is guided by the ‘PLUS’ principle – preserving biodiversity, celebrating local culture, uplifting the community, and commitment to sustainable business and development practices.
  • The island strongly adheres to the ‘minimum impact & maximum experience’ policy: making sure the environmental impact of tourism development is as low as possible and driven by a socially responsible attitude.
  • Supported by the Biosphere Responsible Tourism standards, Omali Lodge on Príncipe’s sister island and very close to the small nation’s international airport, practices responsible management in going local with respect to sourcing local food produce and employing local staff.

Príncipe’s responsible tourism changemakers

Who is leading sustainability efforts in Príncipe, making and keeping it attractive as a tourist destination? Below our interviews with some of the destination’s responsible tourism champions and changemakers.

Antonio Abreu, UNESCO expert Principe Island

Antonio Abreu on protecting the Príncipe biosphere

As a scientific advisor for the UNESCO Biosphere program, Antonio has been among the first persons involved in putting Príncipe on the ecotourism map. In his interview, Antonio tells us how the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve is an effective platform for experimenting with initiatives and ideas for sustainable tourism destinations and what challenges he found the most difficult to overcome.

Estrela Matilde Biosphere Destination Principe

Estrela Matilde on facilitating certification

In order to implement sustainability practices, you need strong persons who can manage and communicate those on the ground. Without Estrela, Príncipe wouldn’t be anywhere near where it is today. In our interview, Estrela shares her experience of working in a developing country, how life in Príncipe has changed her perception of the world and which achievements she is most proud of.

Sergio Duarte

Sérgio Duarte on managing the Bom Bom Island Resort

Very much at the heart of Príncipe as tourist destination lies Bom Bom Island Resort, the flagship property of HBD Príncipe, the tourism development company owned by Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth. Sérgio, the Resort’s General Manager, takes us on a tour around Africa’s first Biosphere-certified hotel.

Philippe Moreau at Biosphere project Principe

Philippe Moreau on sustainably developing Príncipe as tourist destination

Philippe is in charge of tourism at HBD Príncipe and as such responsible for the development of the Island as a tourist destination. Philippe is a highly experienced professional, which makes his reflections on his work for and with Príncipe valuable information – insights fellow destination managers and developers don’t want to miss.

Biosphere-Certified Omali Boutique Hotel Sao Tome

José Miguel Ferreira Mendes on running the Omali Hotel

Omali Hotel in São Tomé was our first stop during our destination visit of São Tomé and Príncipe. For a property located in not (yet) very sustainability-focused São Tomé, the country’s capital city, and the main island, Omali Hotel’s General Manager José Miguel, is in charge of making sure Africa’s second Biosphere-certified hotel is living up to international expectations.