“For me it is a bit of a no-brainer—protecting the environment goes hand in hand with developing the business.” Dana Krauskopf
Dana Krauskopf together with her husband, are founders and owners of the award winning Hamanasi Adventure & Dive Resort, a boutique eco-resort in Belize. She and her husband David love travel, so much so that in the 1990s they quit their professional jobs in Chicago and moved to Eastern Europe. Seven years and three countries later, after working in marketing, travel and for UNESCO, Dana with David took on creating their dream of a high-end, high-service hotel. From the start, they developed their 31 acres of coastal forest with the marine environment and local people in mind.
“If we want our dive business to grow, we have to protect those assets that we are promoting”
Dana says, “we became scuba divers during my senior year in college and we fell in love with it immediately. Over the next few years we traveled to dive destinations worldwide which gave us a perspective on dive resorts and that led to looking for places where we might open our own resort. Eventually we bought property in Belize and have been thrilled with that decision. We bought the land in 1995 and opened in October of 2000. Being a sustainable resort was our intention from the beginning. It’s something that we personally believe in, and that applies to our business as well as our life. Our 1999 business plan and mission statement states: We are dedicated to protecting the environment. That is a key factor in the company’s long term viability. I find that the dive industry and more broadly the tourism industry, is dependent on the environment. If we want our businesses to grow, we have to protect those assets that we are promoting.” And doing some of these things costs very little. “At the high tide point on the beach we kept a strip of vegetation. We didn’t clear-cut to the beach which helps prevent erosion and the silting of the reef and provides a habitat for the local wildlife, efforts that didn’t cost a lot but saved money in the long run.”
“following sustainable practices is a path of continuous improvement”
There are three key concepts that Dana says are essential in creating and running a sustainable travel and dive tourism resort like Hamanasi. First, is that following sustainable practices is a path of continuous improvement and involves hiring, engaging and educating your staff to motivate them from the beginning. Second is to communicate with your customers about your sustainable practices efforts – tell them about both the wins and the challenges. And third is to ask yourself what is the legacy you want to leave the world, and build your sustainable business to that end.
“People traveling to a hotel aren’t thinking about the hotel being sustainable or eco-friendly. They first consider if it is a place they want to go, does it have the things they want to do, is it comfortable and can they afford it? Once they sort through those criteria and then discover that the resort is also sustainable—that can be a deciding factor. One thing we have learned from a sustainability perspective, is that the more you tell your guests what you are doing, the more they appreciate it and the more they want to be involved. They feel a part of it and hopefully will embrace some of those ideas and take them home.” “Communication is key….and that starts with the website and any other marketing you have, so that before your guests arrive they’re aware of what you’re doing. When we send out our confirmation letters we inform guests about our programs. When we check our guests in we let them know. In our guest booklets in the rooms we talk about what we are doing.” Dana says that your dive guides should talk about being sustainable divers. …. while in your restaurant, on your menus, you can talk about sustainable seafood. “One thing we want is to spark within our guests that desire to make changes in their life once they return home.”
“the reef doesn’t belong to us, it is a shared resource”
Regarding her employees and the local community Dana says, “You have to have a happy, dedicated staff and if we as a sustainable resort don’t educate our employees we are missing out on a critical element.” Also “It’s very important to be a part of your community. This is being a responsible citizen and a responsible corporate citizen. We are using the resources of this shared community and in the case of diving, the reef doesn’t belong to us, it is a shared resource and we have to respect that.”
Hamanasi became Green Globe certified in 2010 and has received numerous awards including TripAdvisor’s 2014 Traveler’s Choice Award for second in the world for Service, as well as for Romance & Best Small Hotels. And it received Condé Nast Readers’ Choice Award in 2013. Dana has served on various boards, including Belize Hotel Association, Friends of Nature (now SEA), Belize Eco Tourism Association and United Way.
“What is to be your legacy“
“I would have you ask yourself what it means to you as a person, as a member of the dive community, as a member of this earth. What do you want? What is to be your legacy and how can you translate that into your business practices? And then start small, don’t try to change the world, just try to change one thing, and then try to change another. View it as a journey because it is a lifetime journey. I always say to my employees that the biggest hurdle is the one in your mind, after that the rest is just a check list.”
To learn how to make sustainable choices and become a Golden Globe sustainable dive resort hear all of Dana’s interview at Blue Ocean Summit 2014: Dana Krauskopf. Visit Dana’s Hamanasi Resort and read the Hamanasi Sustainable Mission Statement and the Hamanasi Founders Philosophy or to discover sustainable travel tips see: Pack for a Purpose and to learn about protecting rainforests visit the Rainforest Alliance.
Rachel Dodds also asks questions pertinent to the dive travel industry. “In the tourism industry we always look in terms of numbers not in terms of yield…but you need to think about the impact of those numbers. At a marine sanctuary would you prefer to see 50,000 tourists or 5,000 eco-tourists? As a dive operation I would prefer to have less people that paid more and stayed longer.”
The answer to the question posed by the title of her talk “Sustainable Travel: Does the Tourist Care?” is an emphatic yes and dive travel operations risk their appeal if they do not take heed. To read the entire article by Dr. Rachel Dodds you will find it at: Ocean Profiles: Dr. Rachel Dodds.