The island of 
Roatán has joined the ranks of a growing number of tourism destinations that recognise the potential of sustainable destination management to drive economic growth and inclusive development

The island has achieved this by being the first tourism destination in Honduras to complete a comprehensive 360-degree assessment and action plan for destination-level sustainability.

The idyllic island is already renowned for its top diving sites and diverse marine biodiversity, as well as its rich Caribbean culture. However, the long-term viability of its tourism sector is of critical importance to the economic health of Honduras.

The ‘Rapid Sustainable Destination Diagnostic’ was carried out by the Mesoamerican Reef Tourism Initiative, in close collaboration with leading global non-profit, Honduras’ Ministry of Tourism, and Roatán’s local Geotourism Council.

The diagnostic process evaluated Roatán’s performance on five key pillars of sustainability, which include sustainable tourism planning and governance, economic linkages, preservation of cultural heritage, social and community issues, and environmental protection.

The results of the destination diagnostic indicate that Roatán is making progress on destination management issues, and highlight the priority areas for the travel and tourism sector to focus on moving forward.

Roatán ranked highly on the issue of visitor management planning and monitoring, which recognises the local conservation community’s efforts to minimise tourism’s footprint by promoting environmental practices among tour operators, tour guides and tourists,” said Seleni Matus, Sustainable Travel International’s Vice President of Latin America and the Caribbean, who conducted the assessment. “At the same time, there is an urgent need to establish in situ destination management, incorporate native island culture more deeply as part of Roatán’s tourism product, and tackle waste management and water conservation issues.

In response to the diagnostic results, a resulting action plan is built around three key initiatives:

  • Establishment of a destination management organization (DMO) for the Bay Islands, which includes Roatán, Guanaja and Utila
  • Preservation of native island culture through an inventory of tangible and intangible local, traditional and cultural knowledge, as well as the establishment of a permanent cultural marketplace for the promotion of intangible cultural heritage; and
  • Development of a destination-level action plan for waste management and water conservation.

Destination stakeholders have formed working groups to help bring these three initiatives to life in the near-term.

(Image: Mahogany Bay Port in Roatán)