Chaa Creek welcomes new sustainable tourism project in Belize

The Lodge at Chaa Creek is pleased to see an exciting new sustainable tourism project now underway in Belize.

The project is a collaborative effort between Cornell University and Planeterra, a non-profit organization founded by Gap Adventures “with a history of supporting communities through travellers’ desire to give back.”

The goal of the project is to assist in developing better sustainability management tools for the hospitality and tourism industry in Belize.  With international tourism now worth nearly $900 billion dollars and continuing to have a major impact on developing nations, it is increasingly important to ensure that the tourism provides long term benefits for host countries and not just short term gain for the industry.

This new study seeks to identify ways that countries like Belize can enjoy foreign investment and trade through tourism without sacrificing our unique social and environmental assets.

In Central America alone, the value of tourism has risen to well over $4 billion in foreign exchange annually, and it is now essential to help nations ensure that their citizens, and future generations, will benefit from tourism in the long run.

[pullquote]We must properly invest in and preserve our destinations to ensure tourism can be a reliable resource for the future of our nation.[/pullquote]

In the coming months, a team of graduate students from Cornell’s Johnson School and College of Architecture, Art and Planning will work with the Belize Tourism Board and researchers at the University of Belize to examine the tourism industry and the costs associated with maintaining a sustainable destination.

Currently, the team is focusing on Ambergris Caye.

“We’ve introduced travelers to unique destinations and cultures for 20 years, and are working hard to continue to do so, far into the future,” Gap Adventures’ Marketing Director Richard G. Edwards said. “The hope for this research is to help destinations better understand the value of preserving their natural environments and unique cultures, offering incentives to protect those destinations for new generations of travelers.”

Seleni Matus, Director of the Belize Tourism Board said, “We welcome the Cornell student team here in Belize, because we understand that we must treat our country and its invaluable people, ecosystems, and cultural resources as the ’golden egg‘ upon which as much as 20 percent of our economy depends.

“We must properly invest in and preserve our destinations to ensure tourism can be a reliable resource for the future of our nation,” she added.

The partnership will also support a fellow at the Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise funded by Planeterra, who will be working on activities related to sustainable tourism.

Mark Milstein, PhD, the director of the Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise, said that, “We expect this new partnership to make a significant contribution to sustainable tourism. Results of the project should provide the private sector, governments, and NGOs with better decision-making tools to more accurately assess the costs and benefits of managing local tourism in a sustainable way.”

Having been actively involved in sustainable, responsible tourism in Belize for thirty years, Chaa Creek welcomes this project and looks forward to the results of the study.

“It is so gratifying to see organisations like Planeterra and Cornell University take an active interest in supporting small countries like Belize in efforts to protect our natural environment and social well being.”

“We’ve always believed that tourism has huge benefits for Belize, but it must be carefully managed if it is to be sustainable and provide benefits for our children and their children as well. This is certainly a step in the right direction,” Chaa Creek general manager Lucy Fleming said.

Planeterra is a global non-profit organization dedicated to sustainable community development and environmental conservation through travel. Founded in 2003 by Gap Adventures, Planeterra evolved out of a long history of travelers committed to finding ways to give back to the people and places they visit. Planeterra selects projects to benefit destinations where Gap Adventures travelers visit worldwide.

Photo credit: Gap Adventures,

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