St. Kitts and Nevis Is Determined to Preserve Its Beauty and Nature—Here’s How

This Caribbean nation is working to make sustainability its top policy priority. Here’s how it will affect travelers and locals alike.

The shoreline of St. Kitts, with multiple boats docked in the harbor, viewed from water with green mountains in distance

Dual-island nation St. Kitts and Nevis is making sustainability a top priority.

Photo by Nancy Pauwels/Shutterstock

Many travelers are familiar with St. Kitts and Nevis because they once stopped at its port on a multi-country cruise. Yet the dual-island nation is worth getting to know in its own right—particularly its verdant mountains, white-sand beaches, and accessible historic and cultural sites.

Today, the Caribbean nation—technically, the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis—is working hard to become more of a singular destination for travelers. And in doing so, it is prioritizing sustainability in exciting ways.

“As a country that relies heavily on tourism, we must protect our tourism products so that locals and visitors can enjoy them for generations to come,” says Marsha Henderson, St. Kitts and Nevis’s minister of tourism, civil aviation, and urban development.

In 2013, federation officials launched the first programs to encourage businesses across the islands to establish sustainable practices. Those initiatives led to the country adopting a sustainable development planning framework in 2023 (in conjunction with the United Nations) with a focus on policies with ecological, educational, cultural, and financial objectives. St. Kitts and Nevis now aims to become the first Sustainable Island State—meaning that it will prioritize economic and social development with a lasting commitment to environmental sustainability.

Residents are starting to see increased investments into renewable energy, eco-friendly infrastructure, and sustainable business practices. Travelers are also seeing changes, such as increased options for green hotel stays and excursions across the islands.

For example, St. Kitts has encouraged rewilding of former sugar plantations. The government ended commercial production of sugar in 2005 to instead focus its resources on tourism. “Naturally, nature started taking over and reclaimed much of the sugar lands closest to the rainforest. As a result, the rainforest has expanded,” says Henderson. Notably, St. Kitts and Nevis’s central mountain rainforests are protected from development under legislation dating to 1904.

St. Kitts and Nevis’s naturally steep topography is ideal for cultivation of the rainforest, which continues to expand, reclaiming previously abandoned sugarcane fields. “We now seek to increase economic sustainability by creating closer links between tourism and agriculture,” Henderson says, as well as “the creative economy and souvenir manufacturing, thus reducing the leakage of foreign exchange and expanding the wealth of tourism in the local communities within the federation.”

Similarly, some hotels across the country are adopting green energy and waste reduction practices. Sunset Reef Resort, a luxury boutique stay, is a great example of this. The resort incorporated sustainability into its infrastructure since its inception. According to Chris Crane, the property’s chief operating officer, it has property-wide water filtration and reverse-osmosis drinking water systems in each guest room. It also eliminated plastic bottles and straws, planted native flora, and installed a geothermal air-conditioning system.

Crane credits the government and residents for supporting country-wide sustainability initiatives. “St. Kitts is a stunning Caribbean treasure,” he says. “Locals are committed to preserving its beauty while recognizing the need for ongoing progress and infrastructure development to stimulate growth and attract tourists.” To that end, the government is now offering incentives to resorts that integrate renewable energy practices into new and continued property renovations.

“What is often overlooked is that sustainability is not just environmentally responsible, but a sound business strategy,” says Crane, “yielding a higher return on investment than traditional approaches.”

This is why, in part, seven tourism-related businesses in St. Kitts and Nevis are working with the St. Kitts Sustainable Destination Council (SDC), a nonprofit advisory group of government and private-sector representatives formed to promote sustainable destination management. The SDC has also trained more than 100 residents as “Destination Guardians” through workshops about tourism-related waste reduction and community development. Guardians visit popular tourist sites to identify challenges while developing responsible recovery plans.

The SDC has worked to preserve Kittian culture through sustainable activities for tourists. By partnering with Leonard Stapleton, a local historian, the SDC has launched a series of workshops focused on increasing awareness and appreciation of St. Kitts’s history and cultural traditions.

Tourism professionals visiting the island can also participate in these workshops, where they will be immersed in different aspects of St. Kitts and Nevis’s local heritage. They will be able to tour sites around the islands, including the capital city of Basseterre, to learn about the country’s colonial-era architecture, hear examples of traditional music, watch folkloric dances, and understand the types of games that children play.

Additionally, the federation has been working on longer-term investments into renewables to benefit residents and visitors alike. It has started a campaign to convert streetlights and lighting fixtures at sports facilities away from traditional, energy-consuming lighting to LED, reducing power consumption. And this year, the parliament voted to ban the use of single-use plastics. By the end of 2024, the federation will place bans on Styrofoam food containers, plastic straws, single-use plastic cups, plastic plates, and plastic utensils. The sale and distribution of plastic bags within the country will be banned by March 2025.

“Some restaurants on the island have already implemented the ban on single-use plastics,” Henderson says, “utilizing Mason jars, paper straws, biodegradable takeaway containers, and banana leaves as plates.”

Put together, she says, these initiatives are still in the infancy stages, but have already shown encouraging results: “This ongoing process highlights the effectiveness of long-term conservation efforts and the government’s continued commitment to increased protection of these natural resources.”

Brian Major is a veteran travel writer, public relations professional, and media consultant. He is currently Executive Editor–Caribbean and Latin America at TravAlliance Media. His background includes past positions as director of public relations for the Cruise Lines International Association and senior editor posts at Travel Agent and Travel Weekly magazines. He resides in Brooklyn.
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