Monday, August 28, 2006

Two Model Resorts in the Caribbean Show the Way

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about the impact of tourism on the places we visit – do we risk destroying the very things we seek? Last week, there was an in-depth cover story in Travel Weekly (an industry publication) that looked at the current construction boom in the Caribbean. Newer and larger resorts, hotels, condos and infrastructure are springing up from Aruba to Bahamas.

I’ve watched construction crews work all night on Paradise Island in the Bahamas and I’ve been in Cozumel on days when there were seven cruise ships in port. Certainly, I bear some responsibility for this – I’ve been selling the cabins on those very ships, I send my clients to the Bahamas, driving up the demand. I realize I’ve already been adapting to this boom for some time now: telling my Grand Cayman travelers what days to avoid town because of all the cruise ships; keeping up with new construction that impacts the experience at adjacent, formerly secluded resorts and so on.

I think it’s going to take some enlightened people in both the private and public sector to properly manage this. A great example of success is The Caneel Bay Resort on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands and The Little Dix Bay Resort on Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands, two of my favorite places in the Caribbean. They should remain relatively unchanged due to the actions of one enlightened man, philanthropist Laurence Rockefeller. He established them to provide luxurious relaxation for his family and friends that was in harmony with the Caribbean ecosystem and culture that he loved so much.

Forty-some years ago, Rockefeller donated the properties to the Jackson Hole Preserve, an environmentally-focused nonprofit with ties to his family. To protect the land around the resorts, huge undeveloped tracts were donated to the U.S. and British Governments to create Virgin Islands National Park and Gorda Peak National Park, respectively. Today, the landscape surrounding both resorts is unchanged, and sensitive management by Rosewood Resorts allow the guest experience to be top-notch without deviating from Rockefeller’s original vision.

I am never worried about development affecting my clients’ experience when I recommend Little Dix Bay or Caneel Bay. That’s the model that should be sought – allow appropriate development, while preserving what attracts travelers in the first place. Let’s hope that it happens before it’s too late.

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