Sustainable Tourism – Tobago holiday accommodation
The purpose of this section is to inform our guests seeking Tobago holiday accommodation about our commitment to an ethical and healthy form of tourism that adds value to the local economy and is purposely designed to ensure as many local people as possible have a stake in the successful story that its Castara Retreats. This includes information on some of the issues that need attention to ensure that a visit to Castara Retreats has a positive impact on the local environment, community, and economy.
Tobago has recently been voted as one of the top ten destinations for eco-tourism! “A world away from the all-inclusive resorts, feel the rhythm of the real Caribbean in Tobago. And nowhere else in the Caribbean offers such a diversity of wildlife and habitats in such a compact area.”
Responsible Travel, 2014.
Our intention is to provide information that we hope will enable you to make informed decisions about the impact of your holidays in Tobago. We have worked steadily in creating Castara Retreats as a worthwhile example of sustainable tourism where the value of sharing underpins so much of what we do and how we go about things with our immediate partners who are involved on site as well as the wider community that provides services and goods. As we explain below, we feel we have good reason to describe ourselves as a Tobago Eco Resort based on our commitment to involve local people at all levels in our tourist enterprise and we hope that anyone seeking Tobago eco accommodation will make their way to our door.
When we first started on this adventure of creating quality accommodations in Tobago, we were simply working from instinct rather than from any clear idea of sustainable tourism or eco accommodation in Tobago. We met Porridge and his friend Sherwin through buying fish from them on the beach and we became friends. So when Porridge found us a plot of land and he and Sherwin asked to build the house, our first promise was that we would not let the business aspect of this get in the way of our friendship. We were also conscious that Castara Retreats would adjoin and overlook the village and we did not want it to be ostentatious or out of scale with the feel of the village. So we opted for a simple wooden structure and a green roof. Then we started to think about who was going to support the needs of our clients and how the opportunities could be shared within the village. From the beginning we were not only successful in attracting guests but also in winning their support for our efforts to promote eco tourism in Tobago.
Our clients were knocked out by the beauty of the location and the simplicity and open air nature of the Castara Retreats accommodations in Tobago, and were appreciative of the warm welcome and helpfulness of Porridge. And in return our guests were patient when things went wrong and measured us against something other than what they would expect in a typical Caribbean hotel. They saw what we saw, which is that Castara and its people are special and we need to walk gently to help ensure we do not undermine local culture in inviting people to stay at Castara Retreats for their vacations in Tobago.
From those early beginnings we have continued to feel inspired by Castara and privileged to be welcomed by the community. Castara Retreats guests seem to feel similarly and they say so over and over again in internet based forums, in our visitors’ books and in emails. And this has caused us to think more deeply about what we are involved in, and to take steps to ensure that Castara Retreats plays its part in protecting and enhancing what we found. In this sense we have become more conscious of what sustainable tourism and eco accommodation in Tobago actually involves, and we are increasingly committed to evolving as a Caribbean eco resort that takes a responsible approach to the development and management of our enterprise. This is our way of acknowledging the wholesome way that the people of Castara have impacted on us and many of our clients: the work/leisure balance that they achieve is one that Westerners would do well to emulate.
Our policy regarding the environment and local people
- Our aim is to design and construct accommodation that “lives in the landscape” and is in harmony with the surrounding rainforest and the village. We opted for simple wooden eco structures with green roofs.
- We committed to working with local people, mainly from Castara, to build the accommodation. Whilst the style of the lodges is unique and not found elsewhere in Tobago, we ensured that the construction process was local and derived from local custom and practice. Some 30 to 40 people from the village have helped build the lodges and to install plumbing and electrics.
- We are committed to ensuring that there is a benefit to the local economy. Porridge and Jeanell are our partners and we offer long term employment to gardeners and a team of ladies who clean and prepare the rooms.
- In response to feedback from guests, we have opened a bar and restaurant in partnership with local people, creating an improved income for them and employment for additional staff. This ensures that the economic benefits of visitors are shared around even within the confines of Castara Retreats. We have noticed that the level of poverty has visibly decreased in the village in the past 10 years.
- Everyone working at Castara Retreats is involved in discussions on the importance of protecting the environment.
- We have given advice and support including loans and gifts to several local people who have wanted to start a tourist related business to make a living.
- The vast bulk of services and products required at Castara Retreats are purchased locally. All the in situ staff are local and all maintenance and repairs are carried out by local tradesmen.
- We donate to the local school and chapels and have sponsored the football team. We work with our neighbor, Dorn and her son Taharka, who live on the beach, to create better awareness of the need of sustainable tourism in Tobago and how to protect the rainforest, the reefs, and the related plants, insects, fish, birds and animals. For instance, turtles regularly lay eggs on the beach and Dorn and Taharka now help to protect them, and alert our clients to such visits.