Article Source: The Smithsonian

Gone are the days when a visitor to a Caribbean resort can walk out on a near-shore snorkeling tour and see coral reefs teeming with life. Today, that excursion usually involves a lengthy boat ride. But hotels at tropical resorts are still trying to one-up each other in the battle royale for tourism dollars: the swimming-pool wars of the 1980s and 1990s gave way to full-blown water parks like Bermuda’s Atlantis, yet the resorts themselves seemed to completely ignore their offshore assets, Douglas observed. 

“My team and I were lamenting that at every hotel resort we went to in the Mediterranean and Mexico, the near-shore reef system was just gone, like a nuke went off,” Douglas says. “So the question became, what can we do to rehabilitate that, and what’s the tourism angle? All of these resorts are 200 feet from the ocean, but have nothing to do with the ocean.”

Douglas, a self-described “environmentalist masquerading as a developer,” says coastal resort hotels are uniquely positioned to grow their business by developing recreational opportunities in the water, but also to defend the natural resources there. By motivating local residents to help protect the reefs, they can help tourism grow and increase incomes for everyone involved.

“This is a major question: how do you stop the local fishermen from making a living?” Douglas says. “You can’t pay them not to fish, especially when they’re dirt poor and they need to go out and scavenge whatever they can get. But I’ve been to enough of these hotels to know that most of the people in the community are working there, and when you explain to them what the reef [can do for tourism], they’ll tell their family, don’t fish there. It’s not good for us or the community.