Sustainable tourism case study: how Aruba is making waves

A small island with a big sustainable vision

For such a small nation, Aruba has a big agenda. The Caribbean island is taking a unique approach to combating climate change with a series of sustainable tourism ideas and initiatives. 

On the surface, Aruba is paradise on Earth. Beautiful beaches, idyllic island views and unique culture to embrace. Last year, Lonely Planet named Aruba as one of its top destinations for 2020. But it’s not all sunny news. Climate change is a real threat to Aruba. The Dutch-Caribbean island is likely to see lower rainfall, higher temperatures and a rise in sea levels over the next 80 years.

The outlook isn’t yet bleak, but the science is certainly not encouraging. However, the Government of Aruba and its tourist board – the Aruba Tourism Authority (ATA) – are striving to make a difference and to future-proof the island through some innovative new policies. 

“Climate change is absolutely motivating our work,” Varelie Croes, the chief innovation officer for the Government, told Skift in 2019. “We’re tackling it in a foundational, systematic way that I haven’t seen in other countries and on other islands. What we’re doing and the approach we’re taking is very unique.”

Aruba’s decarbonization

One of the key pillars of their sustainable tourism effort is to decarbonize the island, moving towards renewable energy in 2020 and beyond. But the ATA also recently announced they are going one step further and will be off-setting their aviation activity too. This means that flights for journalists on hosted press trips and travel industry visitors on familiarisation trips will be off-set by KLM’s CO2ZERO compensation service.

Sustainable tourism case study: how Aruba is making waves

As a result, financial contributions will go towards the ‘CO2OL Tropical Mix’ reforestation initiative in Panama, where so far around 7.5 million trees have been planted. “As a destination marketing organization,” explained Tirso Tromp, ATA’s European Director, “we need to walk the walk when it comes to sustainability efforts. Although the changes we are making might appear small, it should lead to bigger things.”

The Aruba Tourism Authority has also committed to creating sustainable marketing materials for industry events, such as offering reusable water bottles by a company that supports water projects around the world, giving away sunglasses made from wheat straw and towels made from the plastic collected by fishermen on the ocean. 

Download our eBook to find more sustainable travel ideas: Sustainable tourism: everything travel agents need to know about green travel

Banning single-use plastics 

Speaking of plastic, the prolific material can often be found washed up on beaches across the Caribbean, and Aruba is no exception. The island, though, has committed to banning single-use plastics throughout its businesses. This means items such as plastic cups and plates, straws and stirrers, plastic cutlery and plastic takeaway food containers will no longer be found in restaurants, bars, hotels and shops. 

Sustainable tourism case study: how Aruba is making waves

Not only does this reduce litter, but it also creates less waste to manage, healthier reefs and an improved environment for wildlife. Another ban has seen the use of certain sunscreens prohibited, with concerns over coral bleaching. While bleaching doesn’t always signal the end for the coral, the effects of a chemical called oxybenzone, often used in sunscreen, can prevent recovery.

Building eco-resorts

The Amsterdam Manor Beach Resort, Aruba.

Of course, it’s not just the authorities getting passionate about sustainable tourism and green travel. Hotels and resorts across the island are getting involved in future-proofing Aruba. “After two-and-a-half years in Aruba, and a total of 12 years in the Caribbean, I noticed that the people in Aruba really care about sustainability,” Alfred Kaufmann, General Manager at the Amsterdam Manor Beach Resort said in a video about one of their recent beach clean-ups.

His resort is one of the leading eco destinations on the island. He told Bedsonline:

“We are committed to helping our planet and giving back to our community. Also, we pride ourselves on being one of the most eco-friendly hotels in Aruba.”

Their sustainable tourism policies include staffing the nearby beach during turtle hatching season to ensure the safety of the baby turtles, using solar heaters and insulation inside the property, and participating in conservation programs run by NGOs across the island. 

Amsterdam Manor isn’t alone in its efforts either, with the likes of Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort also getting in on the action. The hotel recently became carbon-neutral, winning them an award by the World Travel & Tourism Council.

It’s also about education

One of the most interesting aspects of Aruba’s sustainable tourism efforts is in its communications with visitors. The Tourism Authority has created what they’re calling the “Aruba Promise”, which visitors can pledge by signing the manifesto online. It covers things like having respect for nature, preserving for future generations and respecting the culture. 

Sustainable tourism case study: how Aruba is making waves

Ultimately, much of Aruba’s action amounts to a small effort, but should other nations follow suit – and some already have – it could be the beginning of a sustainable tourism revolution.

Download our eBook to find more sustainable travel ideas: Sustainable tourism: everything travel agents need to know about green travel

SOURCES

1. Aruba is building a tourism economy centered on sustainability; Skift

2. Climate change impacts within the Dutch Caribbean; DCnature

3. The Aruba Tourism Authority direct

4. Amsterdam Manor sustainability

5. The Aruba Promise; ATA

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