The Ripple Effect of Tourism on Sustainability

Photo by: Khadijah Johnson

BARBADOS – As one of the most visited islands in the Caribbean, Barbados boasts scenes of unmatched beauty that beckons the attention of many world travelers. At 166 sq. mi., the small island may be a paradise for some, but for an island that relies heavily on foreign money, the revolving door of tourists can have lasting effects on the island’s sustainability.

On May 4, the Ministry of Environment in Barbados imposed a controversial $25 tipping fee to garbage collectors dumping more than 1 ton of solid waste. Managing director of Garbage Master, Trevor Manning, told Barbados Today that his business has suffered tremendous loss since the tipping fee came into effect on May 4; a lot of Manning’s waste comes from hotels.

In developing countries like Barbados, it isn’t always easy to properly dispose of waste. Fees in place like this will cause a ripple effect on the welfare of the country.

But what if this tipping fee was imposed on tourists as a “sustainability fee”? It would not only curve the cost of waste management, but also keep waste haulers from having to resort to illegal dumping.

Duwon Clark, FAMU political science graduate, traveled abroad through FAMU to other countries where waste is prevalent on the streets; he agrees that the fee would be useful.

“It could educate people and show them the impact of these issues,” said Clark. “Walking along the street [in Ghana] I would see piles of trash for days, no trash cans in sight. People may want to dispose of waste properly, but there’s no infrastructure.” 

Karen Mitchell, Education Abroad Coordinator, stated that the students who study abroad come back impacted by the amount of waste they’ve seen.

“A couple students wanted to go back to the country and start a sort of waste management business. Another percentage wanted to do a Masters in environmental science,” Mitchell stated.

Abena Ojetayo, Chief Sustainability officer in the Sustainability Institute, offers ways in which international travelers can be conscious consumers.

“Tourist could look for the paths less traveled when they visit other countries. This might mean staying at hotels or hostels that use local resources rather than imported items or shopping locally manufactured items that support the economy,” said Ojetayo.

She also mentioned that travelers can buy carbon offsets, a type of donation made to mitigate that person’s negative effect on the environment due to transportation fuel use. For example, some organizations use the funds to plant trees or restore other natural resources.

Levying the cost of waste management by imposing a fee on tourists instead of on waste haulers should be considered. However, Teresa Nicholls, Manager of Group Sales for Hilton Barbados, mentioned that tourists may be thwarted in having to pay any additional fee for visiting Barbados when they can simply visit another country.  

A country needs to sustain itself without the intervention of foreign money; it’s become more important as climate change continues to affect nations economically, socially and environmentally.