Francis Ford Coppola’s resorts in Belize, 21-room Blancaneaux Lodge and 27-room Turtle Inn, have formalized two strategic alliances that further the company’s commitment and dedication to fostering best practices in ecotourism and sustainable travel.
The resorts have joined the Sustainable Tourism Program led by the Rainforest Alliance, the international nonprofit conservation organization dedicated to helping businesses develop and implement practices spanning sustainable forestry, agriculture, tourism, climate and education. The two Coppola properties have also joined forces with one of the early leaders in the sustainable travel movement, Sustainable Travel International’s global Sustainable Tourism Eco-Certification Program (STEP), which represents the gold standard for companies striving to be environmentally innovative and socially responsible.
The resorts are currently implementing a stainless steel bottle program aimed at reducing plastic water bottle consumption by guests. Additionally, Blancaneaux Lodge has actively begun implementing eco-friendly systems and procedures for recycling as well as preserving water and power on the property. Both properties feature expansive organic gardens that supply fresh produce used in the on-site restaurants, reducing their carbon footprint by using locally sourced ingredients.
“The Rainforest Alliance program will verify our green efforts using a global standard that is especially strong within the Central American and Caribbean regions,” Neil Rogers, Coppola Resorts’ director of marketing said. “Our collaboration with Rainforest Alliance is part of an effort to set standards for long-term sustainable use of resources so that we can collectively help to conserve the planet’s biodiversity and help promote better land use practices.”
Rogers said the two initiatives add value to the work that already implemented. “They allow us third party verification of the work we’ve already undertaken and help give us the tools to make further strides in the future,” he said. “By collaborating with global initiatives we hope our story and that of conservation in Belize reaches a wider audience and in the process creates interest and enthusiasm to help support protected areas management.”
The resorts’ financial investment to participate in the alliances is not large. Rainforest Alliance has grant funding available for participation and STI has recently introduced a low-cost partner program to encourage more companies to participate. “The ROI can be considerable as environmental sustainability is becoming an increasingly important consideration for our target audience,” Rogers adds. “Coppola Resorts has been gradually implementing and improving our sustainable practices over the years so we are already reaping the financial savings and benefits that sustainable practices can bring. However, our aim is not to look at Coppola Resorts in isolation. We hope that by signing up to Rainforest Alliance verification and STI STEP certification that we’ll encourage other resorts and hotels to do the same.”
Creating interactive learning experiences for resort guests linked to field science is a challenge due to the remote locations, seasonal timing and sensitive nature of the research. However, Rogers said a high percentage of our guests do participate in regular after dinner presentations and debates led by our conservation officer. The presentations outline the research projects the resort supports and how staff are involved.
The resorts are in the process of developing two new initiatives that will give guests additional hands on opportunities to learn about conservation and research. “We hope to soon reach agreement with the University of Belize to host a permanent bird banding station at Blancaneaux Lodge. This would allow our natural history guides to be trained to mist net and band birds on the property as well as conduct off-site netting within the adjacent protected areas,” Rogers said.
Tied in to this is a project to create a kids wildlife watching and birding club in the nearby village of San Antonio. “By doing this we hope to stimulate interest in conservation, curb hunting in protected areas and train a new generation of natural history guides,” Rogers said.