The Telegraph’s Headline – “The Tiny Country Teaching Us How To Save The Planet” – Says It All
Even when you’re sure about something, it’s nice to hear others say it.
So when we saw the headline of a recent article in Britain’s venerable Telegraph, we had to smile. And the more we read, the bigger the smiles.
Titled, “The Tiny Country Teaching Us How To Save The Planet” the 20 June 2019 article in the UK’s Telegraph newspaper told their large readership what we’ve been telling ours for years – that Belize may be tiny, but her lessons to the world are Huge.
Author Mike Unwin highlights some examples of why Belize is becoming known as the “country with a conscience” – such as being the first nation in the Americas to ban single-use plastics, and devoting much of its territory as protected wilderness and marine sanctuaries – before embarking on a Green travelogue.
Two important lessons particularly relevant to The Lodge at Chaa Creek come to mind:
Lesson One – The courage of your convictions can pay off
When Belize became Independent in 1981, it faced some hard decisions. Open the country up for development at any cost, or develop around some core principles that put the environment and people first.
Fortunately, there was consensus in government and private industry to take the latter route, and today Belize is a highly respected global model for green development and sustainable tourism.
Potentially lucrative activities such as oil exploration and extraction, and commercial bottom trawling along the pristine Caribbean Coast and the world’s second largest barrier reef were banned after public referendums, lobbying by environmentalists, and public awareness activities.
Belize’s wealth of ancient Maya temples, cities, ceremonial caves and other remnants of that highly advanced civilisation were protected through legislation that reined in the commercial exploitation of archaeological sites and artefacts.
Thanks to these and other measures, Belize has become one of the world’s most vibrant sustainable tourism destinations and a model of green development. And with the benefits of the tourism going to schools, hospitals and other programs and projects that benefit the environment and society, rather than to overseas conglomerates, Belize’s courage of its convictions is paying off.
Lesson Two – Going Green can bolster your bottom line
And here we’ll use Chaa Creek as an example.
When Mick and Lucy Fleming began turning their small farm into Belize’s first true eco-resort, they were faced with the same development dilemma. Tourism was just starting to take off as travellers became aware of Belize’s many charms and attractions, and the Flemings built one, then two, then a few more simple thatched roofed cabins constructed with materials sourced from the surrounding rainforest. Rather than cut down big trees, they built around them, and did so slowly, using their profits rather than outside investors to create something truly special.
Until recently, for example, there was no air-conditioning, but guests loved the idea of a green eco-resort, and didn’t mind. In fact, Chaa Creek attracted the sort of visitors who contributed comments and ideas for further green development.
And when guests heard that one dollar out of every ten they spend on their accommodation goes directly into environmental and community projects under the Chaa Creek Cares initiative, word of mouth built into a global buzz that attracted the sort of visitors that make Belize and Chaa Creek even more appealing.
Today The Lodge at Chaa Creek has grown organically to include accommodations ranging from the budget-friendly, rustic-chic Macal River Camp to the luxurious Tree Top Villas (favoured by a certain well-known member of the British Royal Family) and Ix Chel Rainforest Villas, with a variety of cottage rooms, suites and villas in between.
The onsite Hilltop Spa has been featured in international travel guides, the Mariposa Restaurant leads in farm-to-table, classic, and Nouvelle Belizean cuisine, while the resort’s Belize Natural History Museum and Butterfly Farm educate thousands of locals and overseas visitors alike.
With an infinity pool, stables, canoes and other attractions all nestled within a 400-acre private nature reserve, and an extensive menu of all-inclusive Belize vacation packages, tours and expeditions, Chaa Creek is now known throughout the travel industry as Belize’s “Destination Within The Destination.”
And all this without compromising a commitment to environmental and social sustainability.
Turning Gordon Gecko’s famous pronouncement on its head to become “Green is Good.”
The Telegraph article lists other examples and facts – did you know Belize is home the word’s largest population of Manatees? – and we recommend giving it a read.
For now, we think you get the point – a small developing country that until relatively recently was an unknown colonial backwater has dramatically improved its standard of living while becoming a model of sustainable development.
And we think that’s pretty cool…