The MAR Network's current situation:
The COVID-19 pandemic has imposed a global decline in tourist arrivals, this has had unprecedented impacts, particularly on the MAR regions´ economy, which depends up to 80% on cruise ship tourist. Since March 2020 the arrival of cruise ships reduced to zero, leaving unparalleled economic losses in the three destinations.
As challenging as it may seem, this situation might also offer some opportunities. Under the UNWTO Global Guidelines to Restart Tourism, the Network may find an opportunity to boost the importance of Sustainable Destination Management as the best way for recovery.
Following the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) outlook, the MAR network is betting on a vision for reactivating the economy by “rebuilding confidence investing in a green and more inclusive recovery”.
The MAR Network is currently working towards achieving financial sustainability to fund the main priorities, considering also a bottom-up approach through the Destination Management Organizations of each country.
AND PROJECT PLANNING
Building of Cozumel & Belize Destination Management Organizations DMOs and support to Roatan
Visitor Management studies for Roatan and Belize
Financial Plan for the MAR Network
CORAL to Prepare Two proposals for the Network
MAR Network webpage
Some projects are on hold due to COVID-19 restrictions
Integrate Plastic Waste Management into MAR Sustainability Priorities
Implement Plastic and Waste Management Awareness Campaigns (Belize & St. Lucia)
Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships to Support Policy Planning and Facilitate Joint
Strategies towards a Reduction of Plastic Waste
Strengthen governance of tourism sustainability within the MAR region
Strengthen Regional Cooperation and Exchange Learning Throughout the MAR
Upscaling for a Region-Wide Sustainability Program
Destination Assessment for Saint Lucia (for future project)
Knowledge Management: MAR Network as an innovation lab for sustainable recovery (data, information, knowledge)
Project proposals (pipeline)
Educational toolkit for guides and operators that train on ecosystem value and function and sustainable tourism practices.
Regional tourism policies and regulations in order to standardize licensing of tour guides and operators in the MAR Region.
Tools across the MAR region to educate travelers who are not accompanied by tour guides and operators.
Local Destination Community Tourism Development Strategy and Plan.
Regional Capacity Building Program to support Micro, Small and Medium-Sized Community Based Enterprises (MSMCE).
Small Grants Program for Local Micro, Small, and Medium-Sized Community Based Enterprises.
How does the Network currently work? How should it work in the future?
Network's coordination staff hired through its members’ administrative structure
Funding source GIZ-CORAL
Network’s coordination staff hired through its members’ administrative structure
Funding source: Small grants + mid-term projects
Light-weight structure, provides flexibility
Network's coordination staff hired through its members’ administrative structure
Funding source: large-scale projects + own funds from members (i.e. local tourism PES)
Holacracy management vs. hierarchical
OUR FINANCIAL PLAN
1. Short-term (1-2 yr): small grants (MAR R2R + GIZ Marine Litter Regional + RCL & WWF)
2. Mid-term (2-4 yr): project proposals
3. Long-term (4+ yr): strategic alliances & own funds
1. Financial Sustainability: The MAR Network consolidates a consistent flow of contributions
2. Spending Effectiveness: The MAR Network has an effective and efficient financial management
3. Strategic Alliances: New strategic partnerships support destinations’ projects
Four Thematic Windows:
1. Destination’s Sustainable Recovery: the need for “a different” economic recovery post-COVID is a global priority.
2. Ocean/Marine Ecosystems Protection: climate change & biodiversity conservation are still top 5 topics for donors
3. Integrated Waste & Water Management: these are top priorities from the Assessments
4. Private sector engagement in Sustainable Destination Management: the Global Risk Report 2020 - presented at World Economic Forum - ranked environmental risks among the top 5 risks for the global economy
Destination Management Organization (DMO) Building
From January 2020 to March 2021, Cozumel has worked on the building of their DMO. It is a multi-sectoral destination management platform to consolidate the sustainable development of the island, to achieve a sustainable tourism destination, based on the conservation and regeneration of ecosystems under a community approach.
Isla Cozumel Agenda 2030
5 pillars for the sustainable recovery of the destination
Climate change, conservation, regeneration and sustainable use of natural resources
Economic diversification and transition to a regenerative / circular / blue economy
Destination management and marketing
Social, cultural and community strengthening
Sustainable island infrastructure
DESTINATION SUSTAINABILITY ASSESMENTS
In 2018, Royal Caribbean, WWF and the GIZ funded three sustainable tourism assessments, under the GSTC criteria, in order to determine the sustainability priorities of each destination.
Download full document
Between December 2017 and April 2018, the Center for Responsible Travel (CREST) applied the Global Sustainable Tourism Council Destination (GSTC-D) Criteria and assessment methodology, as well as WWF’s Marine and Coastal Tourism Strategy, to identify issues that are undermining Cozumel’s environmental, social, and economic sustainability and to recommend improvements for responsible tourism practices on the island.
This assessment builds on earlier studies, including the 2012 Rapid Sustainable Cruise Destination Diagnostic (2012 Rapid Assessment), and is part of ongoing initiatives in Cozumel to demonstrate that properly planned tourism can contribute to healthy livelihoods and ecosystems based on multi-sectoral partnerships. The principal collaborators in the GSTC assessment were WWF-US, WWF-México, GSTC, the Cozumel Municipality, GIZ, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., and local stakeholders
Download full document
Tourism is a key pillar of Belize City’s economy; it is Belize’s main port of call for cruise tourism, it hosts the country’s only international airport, and is a main destination for meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions (MICE). It´s especially important to manage tourism carefully in a destination like Belize City, as it´s the country’s largest city and the doorway through which international cruise and air passengers access all that Belize has to offer. Belize City is often the first impression that many visitors have of the country. Current perceptions of the city as crime-ridden and unsafe, lacking quality tourism facilities and leisure services, with limited public spaces, green areas, and recreational facilities, serve as major challenges for the desired development of sustainable tourism.
To help advance Belize City’s strategic objective of pursuing balanced and sustainable tourism development, the GW IITS, in partnership with the WWF and the GSTC, assessed Belize City’s compliance with the GSTC Criteria for Destinations, GSTC’s internationally recognized destination-level criteria and indicators with supplemental indicators reflecting WWF’s Marine and Coastal Tourism Strategy. The GSTC Destination (GSTC-D) Assessment took place from April 2019 through May 2019 and builds on previous research, studies, and initiatives that were designed to assess and improve the sustainability of the tourism sector in Belize City.
Tourism is a key pillar of Roatan’s economy, as it is the leading port of call for cruise tourism in Honduras. Roatan’s limited resources and the fragile relationship between the local economy, community well-being, and the environment, make it especially important to manage tourism carefully. Research indicates that small islands are particularly susceptible to negative impacts from inadequate destination management. Uncontrolled tourism development can threaten Roatan’s natural and cultural assets and the well-being of the local community through overdevelopment, overcrowding, pollution, and homogenization of the tourism product.
In this context, and to help advance Roatan’s strategic objective of pursuing balanced and sustainable tourism development, the GW IITS, in partnership with the WWF and GSTC, assessed Roatan’s compliance with the GSTC-D using GSTC’s internationally recognized destination-level criteria and indicators, with supplemental indicators reflecting WWF’s Marine and Coastal Tourism Strategy. The assessment took place from November 2018 through April 2019 and builds on previous research, studies, and initiatives that were designed to assess and improve the sustainability of the tourism sector on the island. In particular, it updates the 2013 destination assessment of Roatan completed as part of the Sustainable Destinations Alliance of the Americas initiative with the support of RCL.
TRAIN THE TRAINERS
Program developed in partnership with:
The Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL) is a non-profit, environmental NGO that is on a mission to save the world’s coral reefs. They work collaboratively with communities to reduce direct threats to reefs in ways that provide long-term benefits to people and wildlife.
CORAL and other MAR Network partners have developed the “Train the Trainers” courses for tour guide operators in the Mesoamerican Reef to more effectively educate tourists about coral reefs and how to protect them.
These four Modules cover a number of topics, including reef biology and ecology, the value of coral reefs, the global and local threats they face, what we can do to conserve reefs, and how sustainable tourism can have a major impact.
CARRYING CAPACITY STUDIES
Carrying capacity (CC) provides valuable information about a destination which may be used to inform decisions in relation to the sustainable development of a destination. As a tool, it can be applied to the tourism activity planning process, particularly in the case of sensitive destinations such as those bordering the Meso American Reef. It also allows destination managers to better manage their visitors, both on a destination level as well as by better managing the tourist attractions their visitors enjoy.