Chaa Creek’s Latest Environmental And Community Projects Highlight The Value Of Sustainable Tourism

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The Lodge at Chaa Creek's recent Macal River Cleanup Campaign 2019 and the upcoming annual Eco-Kids Environmental Summer Camp are just two recent examples of how sustainable tourism benefits both travellers and the host countries they visit.

A couple paddling a canoe on Belize's Macal River

Belize's Macal River is one of the little Caribbean country's lesser known, but most serenely stunning attractions

This is what true sustainable tourism is all about

The Lodge at Chaa Creek’s latest Macal River Cleanup Campaign 2019 and the upcoming annual Eco-Kids Environmental Summer Camp are two recent examples of how sustainable tourism brings benefits to the local environment and communities, the popular Belizean eco-resort’s managing director said.

“Our staff’s Macal River Cleanup Campaign 2019 shows what can happen when sustainable practices and Green operations are adopted by all members of an organisation,” Bryony Fleming Bradley said.

“When the entire staff begins thinking in terms of how the organisation can contribute to environmental sustainability and support for local communities, Green practices become second nature. And this is something we hope is becoming a model for all nature-based resorts,” she added.

Chaa Creek staff embarked on their most recent river cleanup project in June 2019, following a previous sweep of the Macal River in May of last year. And this year’s effort removed more than twice the amount of rubbish and debris that was collected last year.

Ms Bradley said it is noteworthy that the river cleanup and similar initiatives are staff-driven, with many Chaa Creek employees volunteering to become involved.

“These environmental and community projects spread the benefits of tourism while bringing staff, visitors and local Belizeans closer together,” she said

Other Chaa Creek projects include delivering holiday baskets and gifts while Christmas carolling for elderly, disabled and disadvantaged community members, a successful anti-littering campaign, delivering visitor-donated school supplies to needy primary schools, and assisting with the annual Eco-Kids free environmental education summer camp, Ms Bradley said.

Chaa Creek’s Eco-Kids Summer Camp, officially the Eco-Kids Environmental and Cultural Exchange Camp, has been providing a free, weeklong “learning adventure” for 24 young Belizeans between the ages of nine and twelve since 2001.

Sponsored by Chaa Creek founding owners Mick and Lucy Fleming as in “investment in the future,” this year’s camp runs from July 14 – 21, 2019. It offers a unique hands-on educational experience focussed on Belize’s environment and cultures in a pristine rainforest setting at the resort’s Macal River Camp.

Lucy Fleming, a former schoolteacher who conceived of the Camp with the belief that “Instilling a sense of wonder and respect for the natural world in young people, while giving them the skills and confidence to protect it, is the best way to prepare for the environmental challenges of the future,” said it would not be possible without the enthusiastic support of the staff.

“As with all our environmental and community projects, Chaa Creek staff members, from our naturalist guides to cooks, farm and stable hands, and pretty much everyone put their hands up to get involved.

“It’s wonderful to see, and sends a positive message throughout the community about sustainable tourism, and what can be achieved when people work together,” Ms Fleming said.

She added that management and staff members often identify projects and then work together to carry them out.

“For example, the recent Macal River Cleanup Campaign 2019 was the brainchild of Brion Young, who manages our onsite Belize Natural History Centre. Brion is an environmentalist and nature lover who became concerned when he saw rubbish on the banks of the beautiful Macal River, which many of our guests enjoy canoeing on, and local people still use for transportation and fishing.

“Last year Brion conceived of the idea to have a river cleanup day. He shopped the idea around, and staff responded enthusiastically. They loaded canoes with the necessary implements and these large industrial trash bags, and by the end of the day arrived in San Ignacio Town with nine huge bags full of stuff that they delivered to the local Waste Management Station.

“This year Brion again organised a 15 member team and they removed 17 bags of trash and debris, helping to return the Macal River to its natural beauty.

“We couldn’t be prouder of yet another great initiative that was developed and implemented in-house by staff members, most of whom are locals and who, like Brion, ask for nothing in return and say their reward is the satisfaction of a healthier river and environment.

“This is what true sustainable tourism is all about. Revenue from visitors supports eco-resorts that provide employment for local people and families, many of who give back time and energy towards protecting the land and communities that attracted those visitors in the first place.

“It’s wonderful to see, and bodes well for the future of Belize and the planet,” Ms Fleming said.

The Lodge at Chaa Creek is a multi-award winning eco resort set within a 400-acre private nature reserve along the banks of the Macal River in Belize. It was recognised by National Geographic with first place honours at the 2017 World Legacy Awards held in Berlin.

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