• Carol Lue

Fighting Food Waste in the Caribbean Tourism Sector: A Eco-Marketing Perspective

Updated: Mar 28


When choosing your next vacation stay, will “environmental friendliness” or sustainability be a major deciding factor?


In CaribShare's prior blogs, the economic, environmental (climate), and social (food security) cases for hotels to proactively reduce, donate, and recycle their food waste as part of their sustainability plan were presented. But, what about the marketing case that travelers are increasingly seeking “environmentally friendly” hotels that practice sustainability?


According to Booking.com’s 2021 Sustainable Travel Report, there is a strong case. 81% of travelers say they want to stay in a sustainable accommodation this year – which is a notable increase from 62% in 2016 and 74% in 2020, just prior to the pandemic.


Whether this is true is debatable, and remains to be seen as price remains the major deciding factor influencing tourist’s purchase decision across all destinations. In addition, not every traveler may be aware of how to identify sustainable accommodation choices through certain eco-labels and certifications that have been accredited by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC), such as Green Globe and EarthCheck.


At CaribShare’s Food Waste Conference, the Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino, a global chain hotel operator and the Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort, a high end boutique hotel showcased the marketing argument. They both praised and highlighted the eco-marketing advantages as well as the operational benefits of sustainable food waste management.

 
Case in Point #1: Bucuti & Tara Resort, Aruba.

Learn from Nathaly Stanley, Sustainability & Certifications Manager of Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort, how the promotion of their sustainable food waste practices has been become integral to their eco-brand marketing.

 
Case in Point #2: Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino

Learn from Vasco Baselli, General Manager of Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino, how Hilton incorporated food waste management practices into their operations from appropriate menu planning and food prep, smart storage, donation of eligible food to composting and recycling the remaining food waste.

 

The CaribShare Perspective:


The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC ) sets the global standards for sustainability in travel and tourism. Regarding sustainable food waste management, their D2.4 solid waste criteria calls for food waste to be measured and for mechanisms to be put in place to reduce waste and, where reduction is not feasible, to reuse or recycle it. Taking guidance from the GSTC, the Green Globe certification program in turn requires that a solid waste management plan is implemented with quantitative goals to minimize waste that is not reused or recycled (criteria 2.3.1). Criteria 2.3.2 and 2.3.3 call for a comprehensive strategy to reuse and recycle to reduce waste to landfills.


We believe that these criteria should go further by (i) specifically banning all organic waste from landfills, and (ii) providing preferential credit for enhanced forms of recycling through composting and the use of digesters to produce compost and organic fertilizer. Otherwise, hotels may ONLY choose to recycle their food waste by giving some to a few pig farmers to feed their animals. Indeed in Jamaica today, many hotels choose this “easy” option only, preferring to forgo the effort and cost of recycling by composting and using digesters as the pig farmers would collect the waste on their own dime.


However, if the hotel industry does not value and in turn demand enhanced recycling services, the local recycling sector will remain stunted. Furthermore, the pig farmers alone do not have sufficient capacity to dispose of all of the food waste generated. As a result, significant portions are still left to be sent to landfills that could otherwise by recycled into vital organic fertilizer or compost to help reduce local dependency on imported and costly synthetic fertilizers. As such, a mix approach to food waste recycling is warranted. In its true cooperative spirit, CaribShare both recycled food waste from its eight hotel clients into useful biogas and soil enrichment outputs in addition to sharing some with its 10 pig farmer partners (2016-9).


Furthermore, a good portion of the leftovers is still fit for human consumption, and if stored appropriately and redistributed to those in need in a timely fashion could help fight hunger. Therefore, a food donation program along with enhanced recycling options should be integrated into any food waste management plan. Additional to the criteria set by the GSTC, appropriate local food waste laws and policies are hence needed to ensure this directive is implemented and mainstreamed across the industry.


The two featured Aruban examples are remarkable for the industry. We hope to develop and share other examples from Jamaica and other Caribbean countries in future blogs. For Jamaica to be truly known as a sustainable destination, we really need to cultivate and celebrate our own case stories. Stay tuned….