The Lodge at Chaa Creek became Belize’s first Green Globe certified business back in March of 2009.
And when, on December 1, 2016, National Geographic announced that the Belizean eco-resort was a finalist for their prestigious World Legacy Awards, co-founding owner Lucy Fleming commented on how closely linked the two milestones are.
“When my husband Mick and I decided to open our family farm to guests in 1981, the intention was that Chaa Creek would introduce visitors to all those things we loved about Belize while harmoniously co-existing with the environment. And then we quickly saw opportunities to contribute to the land and communities we had come to love.
“It was a heady time living in a new nation when environmental awareness was emerging around the world, and we were young and determined that any impact Chaa Creek would have would be positive.
“It’s now a running joke in our family that Chaa Creek was an eco-resort before we even heard the term,” she added.
Lucy said that as their small farm evolved to become a one of the country’s most well known resorts, eventually employing 160 Belizeans, she and Mick realised that more formal process needed to be put in place to ensure that their operations remained Green in the face of Belize’s and Chaa Creek’s increasingly rapid development.
Green Globe Certification was one avenue to ensure that their commitment to sustainable, responsible tourism remained at the forefront of Chaa Creek’s development.
“We began informally, by instilling awareness of the 3Rs, leading by example and rewarding staff for initiatives. Later, we documented and put in place an Environmental and Social Sustainability Policy, and involved guests with an orientation program to explain our environmental policies and encourage their participation.
“We also embarked on a range of other initiatives such as helping develop Best Management Practices through a MOA with Rainforest Alliance and their in-country counterpart Program for Belize, and various ad hoc community and educational outreach programs. We also worked within Belize’s tourism industry and were happy to find that many of our colleagues shared a passion for green development and were willing to work together to ensure we had a voice in the development of Belize’s nascent tourism industry.
“And then, when we discovered Green Globe, it became even easier to compile and formalise our various initiatives, making it even easier to continue developing along the path of sustainable development. Green Globe Certification was something that management and staff could relate to and were happy to participate in. Having access to resources like the Green Globe Solution Center made it easier for managers to incorporate Green topics into management and staff meetings and this stimulated discussions, ideas and further implementation of green practices.”
Lucy said that as Chaa Creek showed that a resort could be both Green and successful, that Green operations attracted a new kind of traveller and could actually help a business’ bottom line, others in the tourism industry took notice.
“Now, years later, we’re all proud of the fact that Chaa Creek has garnered the industry recognition and awards for sustainable travel that it has. And becoming a finalist for National Geographic’s World Legacy Awards this year was a special honour.”
Lucy said another benefit of Green Globe certification and having other formal procedures in place was that it was easier to sustainably manage and develop Chaa Creek’s various niche offerings as they all adhered to clear, consistent policies. A case in point is the new Ix Chel Luxury Villas that offer exquisite accommodations, amenities and fittings such as custom made furniture from sustainably harvested timber, and perks such as a personal butler.
“We set out to show that being Green doesn’t mean that you need to compromise quality or excellent service, and I think being recognised by National Geographic and Vogue in the same month proves it can be done.
“It’s more about promoting sustainable tourism and responsible travel than just Chaa Creek, and if recognition as a Green model furthers that, we’re happy to keep adding awards and plaques to our wall.
“As Green Globe’s worldwide network shows, It’s much bigger than one eco-resort,” Lucy said.
The Lodge at Chaa Creek is a multi award winning eco resort set within a 400-acre private nature reserve along the banks of the Macal River in Belize.
This interview was conducted and written by Mark Langan.