Jamaica is an island of much diversity - and island of un-relentless charm and natural beauty. As the tourism base expands however it must be noted that observations need to be made regarding the sustainability of a natural product that some refer to as ‘Zion’ (An idealised, harmonious community; utopia). As more and more people begin to tune into the environment more and more new resorts will, hopefully, follow. But is enough being done? Is sustainability being taken seriously? What will occur if no notes are made? Ben Kilbey talked with James and Jill Burr about their new resort, the Bamboo Eco Resort.Bamboo EcoResort & Spa is an Ecological Resort (EcoResort) that will feature 60 bamboo Villas, a Bamboo EcoLodge with 24 Suites, 3 private beaches and a full-service Wellness Spa. It is set to break new boundaries in the quest for a resort based around the notion of sustainability and environmental awareness. James Burr, one of the resorts Executive Directors grew up in Michigan. Thinking back to his youth he recalls; “I grew up in Michigan, where you are never more than 30 minutes from a lake, pond or river, so I think that made me aware of my place in the environment from a young age.”
Perhaps it is these early foundations that have installed a sense of duty to protect and nurture the natural assets that are granted to us? It would suggest the reason for devising such a resort (The property site boasts over 500 acres of lush tropical forest, coastal cliffs, secluded beaches and over 2 miles of living reef. Bamboo EcoResort & Spa will offer guests all the accommodations, services and amenities of a luxury Resort in an environmentally and culturally respectful context).
“The desire to create Bamboo EcoResort stems purely from the diverse possibilities for tourism in Jamaica, capitalising on the potential, while simultaneously solving socio-economic problems currently facing Jamaican Tourism.” States Burr.
Sustainable tourism has become a hot topic in the Caribbean over the years with more and more individuals realising the need to protect what is so rich and abundant in the archipelago. With last years CTO Sustainable Tourism Conference (STC) hosted on the island of St. Kitts and this year on Cuba. Conferences such as these are a melting pot of country representatives who desire the expansion of sustainability throughout the Caribbean. They are vital learning modules for those that need teaching. Talking of sustainable tourism Jill, the second Executive Director, makes clear; “I think sustainable tourism is an excellent foundational policy for any new hotel or resort, but we must understand the true meaning of the word. Sustainable does not mean chemical based housecleaning or chemically fertilized golf courses, especially with all the new natural cleaning and organic agricultural products on the market today. Laundry detergent, window cleaners, and other housekeeping chemicals used in hotels and resorts can easily be converted to all-natural products.“Sustainable tourism begins by developing operational proceedures that minimize environmental impact on land, air, water and communities.
So is teaching really working in the Caribbean? Is it only the hotels that need to be made aware of the need to protect the environment and are the local people being correctly advised on what measures to take? Put simply is there enough education given to local people with regards to protecting the environment etc?
“There is always room for a little more knowledge about the environment; however it is big business who produces and imports the chemicals that consumers use and ultimately affect Jamaica’s rivers. Consumers are already demanding natural products from their suppliers, which is an example of a consumer driven market creating healthy change, which has been the main driving force behind the natural products industry in the U.S.” We aim to introduce U.S natural products companies to the Caribbean as a source for plant based surfactants (detergents) such as sugar cane and coconut oil, “Added James.
So the teaching maybe in place but the action may be a harder to implement.
Bamboo Eco Resort looks set to be a truly wonderful addition to the Jamaican landscape. It will minimise the impact on the local environment whilst utilising the natural resources on offer. One of the key components of the Resort will be its Spa. Not only will the Spa offer treatments of the highest order but it will also fully incorporate natural resources unique to Jamaica. Jill is very enthusiastic about the Spa.
“Our Spa concept is unique. Simply put: We don’t use chemicals. Currently, the Spa industry uses too many chemical based products that do not meet our standards. We will feature Aubrey Organics from Tampa Florida, the only professional line of all-natural body care products available in the world.”
This concept aches of a sentiment recently echoed by Jamaica’s Tourism Minister who understands the uniqueness and need to hone in on using Jamaica’s natural resources; “A whole different area we could talk about is the use of traditional medicines. Traditional healing processes, this goes hand-in-hand with the Spas. Some of the smaller properties are specialised and have treatments that are tried and true Jamaican. Using ‘erbs and roots and shrubs out of our traditional Indian and African heritage. We have our own spa industry that does for example oils and aromatherapy products for instance; Star Fish Oils and Blue Mountain Products. This is very unique to Jamaica.”
At Bamboo treatments will be natural and do exactly what the Minister talks of; “We will also make a signature line of products in house from Jamaican plants, herbs and fruits.”
Just how important will the Spa market be to Bamboo?
“We are assembling an international group of Physical Therapy, Hydrotherapy and Cosmetic Therapy specialists who will train a locally sourced staff base.
We like to think of our project as a Spa with an EcoResort. We estimate that 1/3 of the guests at Bamboo will be guests on a Spa Package. Our Spa will offer amenities you will not find anywhere else: multi-disciplinary physical therapies, chemical-free pools and hot tubs, organic foods and a 100% all natural environment.”
By all accounts Bamboo sounds as if it will be a dream come true for Jamaica and a new benchmark for EcoResorts to come. But what is it that really sets the resort apart from the competition? Easy. James says; “Luxury accommodations, 4 star service, larger-resort style, 100% renewable energy operation (Solar, Wind,and Hydro), on site organic farm and edible landscapes.”
Al/ that we need do now is sit back wait and see if Bamboo offers all that it says it will. Watch this space.
For more information on Bamboo Eco Resort visit:www.bambooecoresort.com
For more information on Jamaica visit:www.visitjamaica.com