Green Certification for Jamaican Hotels

Jamaica, one of the Caribbean's principal tourist destinations, has been leading the charge towards environmentally sustainable tourism for some time

In November 98, the 84-room Negril Cabins Resort became the first in the world to achieve Green Globe certification, closely followed by Sea Splash Resort and Hotel Mocking Bird Hill.

The certification programme was introduced to Jamaica through a United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funded project. The project, EAST (Environmental Audits for Sustainable Tourism), is being implemented through the Jamaica Hotel & Tourist Association (JHTA), with technical assistance from a US-based energy and environmental consulting firm.

EAST aims to develop greater awareness and understanding of the benefits of auditing and the use of environmental management systems in business operations. It also teaches Jamaicans the technical skills which are necessary to run a successful environmental programme.

The certification programme developed by Green Globe and SGS (www.sgs.com) provides independent verification of environmental improvements within the Agenda 21 framework, made through an Environmental Management System (EMS).

According to Negril Cabins Resort Owner, Maxi Bell, "Our preparations for certification have helped immensely in terms of the overall management and environmental efficiency of the hotel. The environmental improvements have already paid back in terms of the cost per room per night of operating the hotel and the health and well-being of the property and the grounds."

Located next to Jamaica's largest and best preserved wetlands with its hundreds of rare plants (including the island's indigenous Royal Palms), Negri Cabins is built to an environmentally sensitive design.

It’s simple wooden buildings set on stilts at tree level have been featured m the prestigious 'Architectural Digest' magazine and won it Jamaica's Governor General's award for design.

Certification of small hotels in Jamaica is being widely heralded as a strategic marketing advantage for the island nation. Local environmentalists have been working in Jamaica for decades sensitising residents and implementing strategies to protect and preserve the environment.

None, however, have previously ventured past the natural environment into the front and back office, kitchens and laundry rooms of the island's hospitality industry. In just under a year, 20 detailed environmental management audits of small and medium sized hotels have identified first year average savings of approximately $50,000 US Dollars.

A number of small hotels are now working towards certification and some 30 private sector auditors and 60 hotel managers have been trained in environmental management. In terms of technical assistance, EAST has enabled US$100,000 worth of equipment and systems to be procured and installed in the hotels.

Project Manager, Bill Meade said: "Both management and staff are working hard here at preserving the environment inside and outside their hotels. A survey we sent to hoteliers revealed a genuine concern about the impact that their operations have on the physical environment and an appreciation of how proper management can be translated into cost savings".

James Samuels, President of the Jamaica Hotel & Tourist Association (lHTA), says of the EAST activities "These programmes are helping to redefine Jamaica's image among the increasingly more environmentally-conscious travellers all over the world and the actual benefit for those who live and work here is also phenomenal". Impressed by the Canadian Pacific project, (CP) Hotels has initiated an incentive exchange program where winning 'green teams' of CP Hotels visit Jamaican hotels (and vice versa).

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