Report finds cruise industry is protecting the precious places it visits

Cruise lines, governments, civil society and shore operators contributing to better stewardship of environmentally sensitive cruise destinations

The major players in the cruise industry, including cruise lines, local governments and shore operators in collaboration with civil society organizations - are taking proactive measures to ensure a sustainable future for cruise tourism while preserving cruise destinations, according to a new report titled From Ship to Shore: Sustainable Stewardship in Cruise Destinations issued by Conservation International's (CI) Center for Environmental Leadership in Business (CELB).

From Ship to Shore examines the shared responsibilities among cruise lines, governments, civil society groups and shore operators to manage the growth and expansion of the cruise industry into sensitive ecosystems. The report also profiles leadership examples of how these stakeholders are taking tangible steps to ensure a sustainable future for cruise tourism, while maintaining the natural and cultural integrity of cruise destinations.

"As cruise lines expand their ports-of-call, it is important to not only identify the environmental challenges facing the tourism industry, but to also highlight the sustainable practices that are being employed in these destinations," said Jamie Sweeting, co-author of From Ship to Shore, and senior director for travel and leisure at CELB. "This helps to ensure that the positive actions being taken can be sustained over time and replicated by others who operate in environmentally sensitive cruise destinations."

From Ship to Shore provides several case examples of successful environmental and cultural management in popular cruise destinations including:

  • Philanthropic funds created by the cruise lines invest in local communities' efforts to establish cultural attractions and fund conservation groups working to protect sensitive destinations.
  • Grupo Xcaret, a private company, purchased and leased lands from the Mexican government to develop natural and cultural theme parks along the Caribbean coast of Mexico.
  • Several cruise lines have installed scientific laboratories on its ships to help scientists conduct research on vital marine and climate issues.
  • The Government of Belize established a small visitor tax to generate sustainable financing that supports the management of the country's parks and protected areas.
  • On board, cruise passengers are offered an array of educational programs on local regulations, local resources and protected areas, appropriate behavior, and species-specific guidelines and information.
  • The St. Lucia Heritage Tourism Programme, a community-based initiative of the St. Lucia Ministry of Tourism, provides support to community activities that promote heritage tourism products and services.
  • Atlantis Adventures operates electric submarine tours in 13 destinations, including cruise destinations throughout the Caribbean and Hawaii, offering a non-invasive way to explore marine ecosystems.

"Although cruise tourism has the potential to overwhelm fragile destinations if not managed effectively, the industry is also a great potential ally for conservation, because many cruise passengers are attracted by the opportunity to experience new places and cultures," stated Russell Mittermeier, president of CI, in the From Ship to Shore Foreword.

The report also makes specific recommendations for how these groups can more effectively work together to manage increased cruise passenger visits while minimizing negative environmental, cultural and societal impacts. Examples of these recommendations include:

  • Cruise Lines: Cruise lines should work with local governments and community organizations to develop effective management plans for destinations; educate passengers and crew on ways to support conservation through actions and behaviors; invest in local conservation and community development projects; and choose and promote environmentally and culturally responsible shore operators and recreation providers to serve their passengers.
  • Governments: Governments should examine creative financing tools such as trust funds, or concession agreements that provide revenue and establish better management practices; charge entrance fees to protected areas and ensure that the revenues from those fees go back into the management of those sites; and develop infrastructure that supports responsible natural and cultural tour operations.
  • Civil Society: Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) must facilitate wider collaboration among a broad range of stakeholders to raise awareness and develop cooperative programs, tours and initiatives; contribute to sustainability through local training and capacity building; and help organize local communities to capture revenue from increased tourism, through local handicrafts, community-owned businesses, excursions and other ventures.
  • Shore Operators: Shore excursion operators can share and promote voluntary good practices, and develop protocols for peer enforcement of local guidelines and regulations; form partnerships with local communities and indigenous people in order to include cultural elements in their shore excursions; implement standard operating procedures to ensure minimal negative impact on the local environment and cultures; and educate tourists about specific local regulations, laws, customs and needs.

The cruise industry has grown rapidly in recent years, with average annual increases in passenger numbers of 8.2 percent over the last two decades. More than 11 million passengers sailed on cruise ships in 2005. Between 2000 and 2004, 62 new ships were introduced to the North American market alone and another 20 are expected to come into service by 2009.

Of the top 30 cruise destinations in the world, 20 are located in the Caribbean and Mediterranean, two important biodiversity hotspots. Among these, the 10 most popular ports are all found in the Caribbean basin, which includes South Florida, the Caribbean islands, Mexico and Central America areas that are home to unique and threatened species and habitats.

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From Ship to Shore: Sustainable Stewardship in Cruise Destinations was produced by CI as part of its work through the Ocean Conservation and Tourism Alliance (OCTA). OCTA is an initiative between CI and the International Council of Cruise Lines working to protect biodiversity in main cruise destinations while promoting industry practices that minimize environmental impacts.

From Ship to Shore will be distributed to the cruise line industry, vendors, suppliers, Caribbean governments, shore operators, and international and U.S. regulatory bodies, as well as at the annual Seatrade Cruise Shipping Convention in Miami Beach. For an electronic copy, please visit www.celb.org.


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