Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Who knows what this means?

Depending upon where you are in the world, the New Year might be viewed with hope, optimism, or downright trepidation. If you’re in travel and tourism, you’re probably optimistic. We certainly are. Here are some thoughts about the much-touted sustainable development goals; a way to create a future our children can depend on.

The UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has declared 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism. Don’t worry; this blog post is not a lecture about the importance of implementing these goals; you already know all about that. What we are attempting to do here is to shed some light on how tourism practitioners can embrace  these goals to sustain our destinations.

According to UNWTO Secretary General Taleb Rifai, “the declaration by the UN of 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development is a unique opportunity to advance the contribution of the tourism sector to the three pillars of sustainability—economic, social and environmental, while raising awareness of the true dimensions of a sector which is often undervalued.”

How do the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals relate to tourism?

 The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a universal 17-goal plan of action for people to conserve the planet and ensure prosperity for all countries. The SDGs with their accompanying targets were approved by the 70th Session of the United Nations General Assembly on September 25, 2015, and encourage all stakeholders to join together in collaborative partnerships with the objective of meeting the goals by 2030.

The UNWTO outlines that the focus of tourism is highlighted in the SDGs as a target in Goal 8, Goal 12 and Goal 14:

  • Goal 8 emphasizes the advancement of “sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all”. The tourism sector’s contribution to job creation is outlined in Target 8.9 as follows: By 2030, devise and implement policies to promote sustainable tourism that creates jobs and promotes local culture and products”.
  • Goal 12 is designed to “ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns” within destinations. A tourism sector that utilizes sustainable consumption and production practices plays a vital role in advancing the global shift towards sustainability. This is highlighted in Target 12.b, which highlights that it is important to “develop and implement tools to monitor sustainable development impacts for sustainable tourism which creates jobs, promotes local culture and products.”
  • Goal 14 accentuates the need to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development” within destinations. Coastal and maritime tourism are crucial elements of the tourism industry, especially for Small Island Developing States (SIDS), which rely on healthy marine ecosystems. Tourism development should be included in the management of integrated coastal zones to help conserve and preserve fragile ecosystems. This is consistent with Target 14.7, that: “by 2030 increase the economic benefits of SIDS and Least Developed Countries (LDCS) from the sustainable use of marine resources, including through sustainable management of fisheries, aquaculture and tourism”.

Tourism, with its dynamism, sheer size and substantial global reach, can make a strong contribution to the achievement of the SDGs, particularly in the areas of job creation, sustainable consumption and production and the preservation of natural resources.

 Two brief, innovative Caribbean Examples

 While aiming to implement all of the SDGs may be easier said than done, we must certainly give credit to those businesses and tourism destinations which are already capitalizing on achieving some of these goals.

Saint Lucia- Jus’ Sail


Photo Credit: Jus’ Sail

Finalist in the World Travel & Tourism Council’s (WTTC) Tourism for Tomorrow Awards 2016 was Saint Lucia’s Jus’ Sail boating business. Jus’ Sail is focused on using its business—and its one single boat—to offer valuable skills and employment to the youth of the country, where 50% of youth are unemployed. Within the summer months, Jus’ Sail provides youth training programs, aiming to offer personal development opportunities for unemployed Saint Lucians. These training programs have the potential to lead to future sustainable employment within the yachting sector and wider tourism industry.

Jus’ Sail is a perfect example of how SDGs Number 4: Quality Education and Number 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth can be implemented and achieved in your business or destination. Jus’ Sail’s success indicates to the Saint Lucian and wider Caribbean community that even a small business can invest in more than just its own employees’ development, and that every business should aim to do its best to ensure a sustainable future for all.

To learn more about Jus’ Sail, click here: .

Jamaica- WalkersWood Jerk Country Tour

walkerswood-jamaicaPhoto Credit: Pop-Up Gourmet JA via Walkerswood Caribbean Foods Ltd.

Snuggled in the hills of St. Ann, Walkerswood Caribbean Foods Ltd. is grounded in community action, which characterizes Walkerswood village. The company has 14 product lines across a range of seasoning, sauces, spices and other local Jamaican food products. Walkerswood has established a farming and restaurant division, in addition to forming an authentic local tourism product known as the “Walkerswood Jerk Country Tour—A Jamaican Epicurean Experience”,  that opened in 2005 targeting mostly cruise and stayover visitors.

Visitors take part in a one-hour tour at Walkerswood to learn about Jamaican food traditions. The tour entails a walk through a demonstration spice garden, sampling seasoned barbequed pork and chicken at the jerk pit, viewing a traditional house and the factory at work. The tour ends at the kitchen craft shop in the visitor center that sells various spices, cookbooks and local arts and crafts.

Skills development in tourism is emphasized in this example as 30 local guides were trained by Walkerswood to lead the tours.

The Walkerswood Tour is a useful example of how SDGs Number 4: Quality Education, Number 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth and Number 12: Ensure Sustainable Consumption & Production can be implemented and achieved in your business or destination. The tour strengthens economic linkages between tourism and local agricultural production. Walkerswood also mentors and supports farmers supplying agricultural produce to the factory. Agricultural land belonging to the company is cultivated rent-free by villagers nearby the factory. For more information on the Walkerswood Tour, visit


Over to You

While the above two examples indicate how the SDGs can be implemented, there are other opportunities for your business or destination to take action to begin making small changes to implement these goals in 2017 and beyond. You can make a difference.

Some practical examples include participating in local beach clean-ups, which everyone can do. For example, in some member-countries of the Caribbean Tourism Organization local community groups organize regular coastal maintenance campaigns. For the restaurant sector, restaurateurs can , purchase local produce and incorporate it in menu offerings. In fact, many regional chefs are coming up with innovative ideas and have included recipes using rum and authentic Caribbean ingredients. For the hotel sector, hoteliers can have guests take part in sustainable activities during their stay. For instance, the Nisbet Plantation Beach Club in St. Kitts & Nevis allows guests to take part in planting coconut palms to commemorate the celebration of honeymoons and anniversaries. For cruise ship vendors and souvenir shops, purchasing goods and items for resale from the local arts and crafts sector would also add value to the visitor experience. There is really no limit to the number of creative ideas that can emerge, once we put our minds to the task.

Trying to implement all the goals at once is nearly impossible, but taking small steps toward an achievable goal is another way of eating the proverbial elephant, one bite at a time.

What are your thoughts on the International Year of Sustainable Tourism? Are you aware of other innovative sustainable tourism examples in the Caribbean or around the world? I’d love to hear from you.

Meanwhile, I’ll take this opportunity to wish you and your family all the best for the Holidays and the year ahead. We’re very, very optimistic about the future of Caribbean tourism!

Merry Christmas! Happy Kwanza! Happy Hanukkah! Happy Holidays!

Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this post, you can show support by liking it and sharing with your peers on social media.



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