The Cayman Islands Department of Tourism in Europe has partnered with leading eco-tourism portal responsibletravel.com to give the islands’ accommodation and nature based attractions the opportunity to showcase its products to environmentally-aware travellers from the UK – at no or minimal cost to operators.
The site was started up more than 10 years ago by The Body Shop’s Justin Francis and founder Anita Roddick and is now the world’s leading provider of ‘green’ holidays, with 350,000 visitors a month and an active database of 150,000. The site also provides its members with valuable marketing support and ultimately will be directing site visitors to make enquiries and bookings direct to operation owners in Cayman.
An online Insiders’ Guide has been developed for the site, written by leading dive and travel writer Tim Ecott, a regular visitor to the islands, revealing Cayman’s wealth of accommodation, nature-based tours and attractions.
The public relations campaign to launch the new partnership resulted in widespread coverage including a recent article in the UK’s national newspaper, The Independent, on Sunday.
The Cayman Islands was featured and promoted as Destination of the Month for February.
Accommodation owners, tourist attractions and small tour operations were encouraged by the tourism department to consider their eligibility for registration which would enable them to avail of ongoing promotions around the partnership. To be listed, each operation should give specific details of how they minimise the negative and maximise the positive impacts of tourism in Cayman and make the natural attributes of the islands available to visitors.
“In 2000, I wrote my dissertation on establishing a portal for responsible travel after being inspired by a village elder on a visit to Kawaza village in Zambia,” said Justin Francis, managing director. “I have been surprised at the uptake from businesses who are engaging in responsible tourism because they passionately want to do the right thing – we are now reaching the tipping point in regards to travellers demanding responsible tourism and I think this is going to take it to a whole new level. What they are demanding is authentic, unique experiences and when you co-design holidays with local people, with local places in mind, this is exactly what you get.
“We were the first tourism business to use the term ‘responsible travel’,” he said. “Others in the tourism industry told me it would be a disaster. Apparently all that mattered to tourists was price, location and services. Looking back now, I can see how far we have come, but I am also excited about the next stage we are now entering.”
Free listings are available to all accommodation providers and day tour operators with responsibletravel.com. A premier membership service is also available and comes with a personal account handler who will maximise bookings by optimising the site page, working on tactical online campaigns and managing promotions across the site.
Mr. Francis said travellers were looking for a more authentic and real travel experience and the way to do that is to choose a holiday rooted in local communities, cultures and environments.
“There is also a growing general trend for consumers to ask more about the processes and origins of the products and services they are buying,” he said. “We have been seeing this happen in the food industry for a while. In addition, consumers are definitely now more aware of climate change and the associated issues. On-the-ground information is important, and hotels and tour operators have a crucial role to play here in communicating effective, relevant and innovative information around responsible tourism in destinations, whether that be providing recommendations of local places to eat and visit, tips on how to minimise your environmental impact locally or an exciting map of local things to do that will help benefit the surrounding communities.”
Kate Kandiah, special projects manager at the Department of Tourism in London, said the project was valuable.
“[It] not only gives our tourism operations in Cayman the chance to list their services for free on a recognised and worthwhile site, but it encourages us to continue thinking about how our operations impact the Islands’ environment and community on a day to day basis, and to harness that positively for Cayman,” she said.