Tourism: synergizing people and nature for a better tomorrow
Impressively, since the 1970’s Bonaire has championed efforts to protect its natural environment and resources. There is no doubt that these efforts have interlaced themselves with the resident’s everyday life and are a fiber in the fabric of Bonaire’s culture. Bonaire is a global gem that has received recognition for its natural areas and enjoys an international reputation for some of the world’s best ocean activities thus leading to a potent economic sector for the island – the tourism industry.
Currently, the tourism industry underperforms for the economic welfare of the majority of Bonaire’s residents. Although the tourism industry could provide Bonaire with economic opportunities for the majority of residents, the professional opportunities linked to tourism have not transpired. This is largely due to two main reasons. The first reason being that natural conservation efforts have displaced development that could provide professional and educational opportunities for Bonairians. This has resulted in a dilution of Bonairian culture where nearly 60% of the island’s population was not born in Bonaire. Bonairians have transplanted to other countries to seek opportunities. The second reason is that the tourism sector does not contribute to the economic wellbeing of the majority of residents but rather contributes to a select few.
With the lack of educational and professional opportunities available on the island, Bonairians have developed a relatively low perception of their quality of life and their satisfaction with their lives. In the last year, about 50% of Bonairians have observed a decrease in their income. Many residents and industry stakeholders feel that the tourism industry can direct and improve the future of the island. In order for this to occur, there must be changes in the distribution of the economic benefits to increase their reach to local households; as well as the industry must be capable of stimulating changes in Bonairians’ quality of life. Thus, this strategic tourism master plan (STMP) was designed to ensure that the tourism industry is capable of generating money, creating jobs, and stimulating sustainable economic linkages to other sectors on the island