Alison's Writing Portfolio · On Culture & Trends · On Places & Travel

Will Your Vacation Destroy Your Destination? –The Huffington Post, 2/25/08

There is a battle brewing in the Bahamas, involving all the
Commonwealth’s veins of lifeblood: its natural beauty, its economy, its
people, and of course, tourism.

    The controversy is centered in Guana Cay,
    an island where the San Francisco-based Discovery Land Company plans to
    build a 595 acre, $500 million resort. A citizens’ group called Save
    Guana Cay Reef Association is suing the Commonwealth to stop it,
    fearing that leaching from the planned golf course will destroy the
    coral reef surrounding the island and that a marina that will be carved
    out of a mangrove swamp will also cause irreparable damage. As the San Francisco Chronicle reports, the
    island has previous experience with developers. "Disney’s Big Red Boat
    cruise ship anchored off the island for five years, and the operators
    dredged a channel, damaging a portion of the reef before abandoning the
    project in 1993."

    Someone cleaned up the damage though–the very developers who want
    to build their new resort project. "Discovery Land cleaned up the site,
    which is within its proposed development. That earned it the support of
    some Guana Cay residents."

    It’s a complicated matter, and the Commonwealth’s Supreme Court will
    eventually decide it. (To follow this story in words and images, see
    Erik Gauger’s project, Rise Up Sweet Island.)  But the controversy, and all the arguments on either side, are by no means particular to the Bahamas.  As just one example, I wrote a story about Roatán,
    one of the Caribbean islands off the coast of Honduras, for Men’s
    Journal’s February issue. (The picture above left is from Copan in Honduras.) A new cruise ship terminal is under
    construction there, which will bring one million tourists on cruise
    ships per year to the island within five years–up from 300,000 per
    year today. The concerns there are similar: environmental damage and
    cultural degradation on the one hand versus economic development and
    the spot on the map that comes from being a tourist magnet on the
    other. And of course, we don’t have to go abroad to find similar: off
    of South Carolina on the Sea Islands, there’s the struggle to keep the Gullah-Geechee culture alive–here, golf tourism is also the encroaching force, and heritage tourism seen as a solution.

    In this piece for the Huffington Post, I discuss how to enjoy a vacation without harming the destination. I don’t really have the answers, but one big part of it is definitely spending your money locally.