Tourism In The Caribbean Briana Kilkenny

We all love escaping away for the holidays and breaks to beautiful places. Whether it be for a seven day cruise or isolation on a beautiful beach. We come and go as we please, briefly partaking in each places culture, and then we’re off to where we came from without another thought about the place until the next time we want to visit. But what happens to these places after we leave? People never really think about what they leave behind. According to the Caribbean Tourism Organization and their Caribbean Tourism Performance Report , the Caribbean took in 29.9 million tourist in 2018, their second highest number on record. That’s 29.9 million individual carbon footprints walking across their beaches. It’s then up to the people who live there to deal with the aftermath that tourism brings them month after month and day after day. The Dominican Republic is one of the most visited Caribbean islands and has been faced with the question of whether or not the Tourism industry can be a sustainable one. We will look at the environmental, economic, and social impacts that Tourism has had on some Caribbean islands and specifically the Dominican Republic.

Street Side Barbados

The Tourism Industry is one of the Caribbean’s largest economic sectors. The heavy reliance on tourism as an economic source has pushed many Caribbean countries to compete and the modernization of these countries can be attributed to this (Desmon Thomas, The Caribbean Tourism Industry in the 21st Century: An Assessment, 2015). The desire to compete in the Tourism Industry has shifted their focus from local problems to a focus on expanding their market in a highly competitive industry. According to the CTI Assessment tourism arrivals come from three main source markets making up 70 % of the arrivals. Leading with the US being the biggest, Europe, and then Canada. And it’s only going to get bigger with the want of Industries to diversify the market to move tourist spending from China and other emerging markets. These relationships have made countries like the Domincan Republic and Barbados reliant on the American market.

Airplane View coming into Barbados

The Caribbean’s natural environment is tourism’s only resource. And just like any other industry, tourism is exploiting this resource. Because of the economic dependence on tourism smaller islands overlook the protection of their ecosystems against pollution and degradation. Tourists visit these islands to experience the culture, wild life, and environment. The effects of the actual tourist and the tourist operator (ie. hotels, resorts, cruise ships) play a role in the “packaging and sale of those experiences for a profit.” (Pattern and impact of tourism on the environment of the Caribbean, 120). In her article Jean S. Holder talks about the “self-destructive theory of tourism”. Her theory proposes that tourism will develop and decline in a cycle of four phases. Phase three ,"The country resorts to mass tourism, attracting persons of lower standards of social behaviour and economic power. This leads to the socio environmental degradation of the tourist destination." is what the majority of islands are facing.

Pollution in Santo Domingo by Scott Gietler 2018

Currently the Dominican Republic is facing 60 tons of trash washing ashore onto their beaches, waste management being one of their hardest problems to tackle to date.The disposal of trash in bodies of water such as the Ozama River is not uncommon. We see trouble with water quality, oil pollution from motor boats, energy waste associated with resorts,beach erosion caused by the development of buildings near high water marks, damage and removal of coral reefs (essential to maintaining ecological balance), the overfishing of sea foods such as lobster and sea eggs, noise pollution due to loud music, and the increase in the amount of people leaving agricultural jobs for jobs within the Tourism Industry (Pattern and impact of tourism on the environment of the Caribbean, 125). This not only affects the environment but people’s way of life. Yes the Tourism Industry brings in jobs but the majority of those jobs are seasonal (caribbean high season- December through May), leaving people jobless for months out of the year. Residents are also faced with the raise in the price of housing and land due to the development of hotels. In Jeanne V. Beekhuis’, “ Tourism in the Caribbean: Impacts on the Economic, Social and Natural Environments” she talks about a subservience affect that the industry have on the people in the Caribbean. Where establishments would rather serve tourist than the people who actually live there.

For me this I have made this a personal problem, because my family is from the Caribbean. I have seen first hand how tourism has affected family members everyday life and even just the amount of trash left behind on beach resorts. I think that many people are now starting to realize that these places we visit aren't just distant destinations but apart of a whole system that affects the different processes on earth. For many years I would visit my family in the Caribbean and take part in many tourist activities not really acknowledging or thinking about the effects that this has on life there. When talking with my cousin Cydine and Aunt Colleen, who were born and raised in Barbados both, made the point of seeing Barbados grow but somehow watching it deteriorate at the same time. In their struggle with watching Barbados change to fit a new crows, “ Tourist bring in their culture and they will share it and we have to adapt to their culture to make them feel at home in our own homes. We do things that they are accustomed to doing and put it inside our homes. Changing up my style just so I can suit them.”.When asked about the growing problem of pollution Cydine mentioned the rapid rate of the Hotels being built around Barbados, “ Hotels no longer find innovative ways to dump their waste so they’re dumping it in the sea. Then we see pollution with ships coming in and docking. I see tourists come in everyday. The more hotels they build on the island the less space there is to dump trash. So they dump in the sea or somewhere on the island.”, Cydine. Most importantly for them there has been a hit to their culture. Just like the Dominican Republic tourism has brought on social stratification, where white tourists are treated better than citizens. Cydine believes that there are still elements of colorism being kept alive by tourism. Where we as a society think that resource and skin color is what makes you valuable. Cydine questions all the risks of new jobs, income, increase demand for local foods and whether the environmental effects are worth it. How can we preserve our island for tourism if they’re the ones destroying it?

Since the problems the Dominican Republic has faced with tourism they have taken on sustainable tourism, looking to the Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the United Nations. The tourism plan in collaboration with the UN Environment Programme includes reducing food waste, increase energy efficiency, and promote the use of renewable energy in hotels (UN Environment, 2019). This plan comes after two years of research which has helped identify greenhouse gas emission hotspots and low efficiency use of natural resources in hotel chains. The results, “Roadmap for low Carbon and Resource Efficient Accomodation in the Dominican Republic”, were launched in May of 2019. The roadmap has five goals; to reduce by 25 per cent greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 (from a 2020 baseline), reduce food waste by half, a 25 percent of reduction in non-renewable energy use, the complete elimination of single-use plastics and the uptake of a sustainability certification for hotels.(UN Environment, 2019). In collaboration and funding from the German Environment Ministry, they've made connections between the Tourism Industry and climate change. Seeing the 57% of food farmed to serve in hotels and resorts contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. DR has also implemented new regulations, policies, and even incentives to combat and their problem with waste management and recycling.

The problem of pollution due to tourism in the Caribbean is not a new one. We see how a booming industry, such as tourism, affects all aspects of life in these developing countries. More specifically the environmental impacts and what those impacts do to the people who are not visitors to these islands. The Dominican Republic is clearly not alone in the challenges they face and I believe that in order for an effective change, the industry needs to acknowledge the wasteful and unsustainable practices of tourism. This sustainable tourism initiative can and should be applied to other Caribbean countries. The Caribbean is a beautiful place and it should stay that way.


Jeanne V. Beekhuis. “Tourism in the Caribbean: Impacts on the Economic, Social and Natural Environments.” Ambio, vol. 10, no. 6, 1981, pp. 325–331. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/4312729.

Holder, Jean S. “Pattern and Impact of Tourism on the Environment of the Caribbean.” Tourism Management, vol. 9, no. 2, 1988, pp. 119–127., doi:10.1016/0261-5177(88)90021-0.

Freitag, Tilman G. “Tourism And The Transformation Of A Dominican Coastal Community.” Urban Anthropology and Studies of Cultural Systems and World Economic Development, vol. 25, no. 3, 1996, pp. 225–258. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/40553304.

Padilla, Art, and Jerome L. Mcelroy. “The Tourism Penetration Index in Large Islands: The Case of the Dominican Republic.” Journal of Sustainable Tourism, vol. 13, no. 4, 2005, pp. 353–372., doi:10.1080/09669580508668562.

Williams, Petre. “The Caribbean Tourist Trade and Climate Change.” Contemporary Review, vol. 290, no. 1689, Summer 2008, pp. 207–209. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=8gh&AN=32999040&site=ehost-live

Takoushian, A., N.a.. (9 Apr. 2012). "Guatemala's trash problems 'getting worse". Deutsche Welle. DW. Retrieved Friday, Karasz, & N.a.. (2018 Jan ). "3 Alternative Ideas for Waste Management in Developing Countrie". iPoint. Retrieved Friday. (2018, July 30). Pollution in the Dominican Republic is a Sign of a Global Issue. Retrieved from https://www.panoramas.pitt.edu/health-and-society/pollution-dominican-republic-sign-global-issue

Your Bibliography: UN Environment. (2019). The Dominican Republic embraces sustainable tourism. [online] Available at: https://www.unenvironment.org/news-and-stories/story/dominican-republic-embraces-sustainable-tourism

"Cruise Ship Emissions." Global Sustainable Tourism Dashboard. https://www.tourismdashboard.org/explore-the-data/cruise-ship/.

The Caribbean Tourism Industry in the 21st Century: An Assessment Desmond Thomas, PhDKGLACC Working Paper No. 3/2015,Miami,FL,https://lacc.fiu.edu/research/publications/lacc-working-paper-series/tourism-caribbean-desmond-thomas-wp3-1.pdf

CTO Caribbean Tourism Performance Report 2018 & Outlook for 2019 Presented by Ryan Skeete, Director of Research & IT (ag) February 13th, 2019, CTO Headquarters, Warrens, St. Michael, Barbados, https://www.onecaribbean.org/wp-content/uploads/Ryan-Skeete-CTO-State-Industry-Report-2019.pdf


Created with an image by David Cain - "Grandma"