Hamanasi: The Belize Resort Setting New Standards For Eco-Tourism

by Larry Waight

Eco-tourism is a big, broad word that can mean a lot of things — and since it’s a word that can attract business, resorts throughout the world want to find a way to present themselves as being as sustainable as possible. But action says a lot more than words, and some businesses make it clear that sustainability isn’t just a marketing tool. It’s ingrained in every layer of the business. Hamanasi is one of those resorts that embraces sustainability as a core component of their mission statement, and they’re broad and thoughtful in their understanding of how their decisions impact the environment. Here’s how Hamanasi is changing Belize and the Caribbean for the better, and how they might help establish a new model for eco-resorts.

A Vision Driven By People

Up for a tour? Photo via Leah Flores/Hamanasi

Running a resort means dealing with a lot of moving parts, but you can’t put together a truly comprehensive sustainability policy without understanding all the different corners of operation. That’s where the Green Team comes in. Consisting of volunteer members from each of the Hamanasi Resort’s departments, the Green Team serves as ambassadors to and liaisons with the local communities, to ensure that the resort’s success in the tourism industry provides enrichment to the people who live in Hopkins Village all year long. Since the members of the team represent staff with a wide variety of perspectives rather than just executives, they can accurately reach the pulse of the people and ensure that Hamanasi’s policies are driven by a holistic approach to community engagement.

That wouldn’t work if the Green Team didn’t represent the community, but local employment is a cornerstone of Hamanasi’s labor policies. Over 97% of the employees are Belizean, and they represent a broad cross-section of this country’s incredibly diverse population. 

With a focus on gender parity and fostering long-term relationships with staff, Hamanasi is creating an enterprise that’s an active part of the community. The Green Team shares their message wherever they can — whether that be the local kids in the Hopkins Eco Club, resort guests who attend the weekly Green Hour, or both visitors and locals at the variety of festivals in and around Hopkins Village.

A Voice That’s Part of a Larger Chorus

Sustainability has to mean more than just reducing waste. It has to mean actively regenerating ecosystems and communities, but that can only happen when local, national, and global leaders are working together to find solutions that are tailored to the needs of specific communities but guided towards the same cause. Hamanasi has been designated a Green Leader by TripAdvisor and enjoys membership in the Belize Audubon Society, the Rainforest Alliance, and the International Ecotourism Society.

The Hamanasi Green Team.

When there are new developments in the world of eco-tourism, Hamanasi is certain to be one of the first to hear about it. And in many instances, they’re the ones helping guide that policy. Hamanasi sits on the Advisory Board for Regenerative Travel and was a founding member of the Regenerative Resorts.

Hamanasi aerial Emily Kaszton belize sustainable

An aerial of Hamanasi by Emily Kaszton.

But far more important than simply promoting big ideas is actually demonstrating how they work in action. That’s reflected in the impressive variety of sustainability initiatives that Hamanasi leads. Sometimes this takes the form of financial support — as is the case with Hamanasi’s support for the Hopkins Belize Humane Society and the Nature Conservancy. Other times, it’s more direct — as is the case with Hamanasi’s internship programs that help local students learn about the hospitality industry and collect donations for the Hopkins Health Clinic. Hamanasi also takes a forward-facing approach to teach guests about the fundamentals of sustainability so that they can carry that knowledge back home with them and leave as small of a footprint behind in Hopkins as possible.

A Soul Inseparable From Belize

The most altruistic words in the world don’t mean much if the people saying them aren’t willing to practice what they preach. Fortunately, Hamanasi is a resort that’s built from the ground up not just to minimize the negative impact of the resort on nature but to instead make it an organic and intrinsic part of that surrounding nature. Sustainable design has had a part to play since the construction of the first buildings, and the resort’s approach to sustainable building is a patchwork of sensible ideas that includes obvious solutions like using energy-efficient bulbs and appliances as well as larger-scale projects like maintaining the surrounding grounds of the resort as a nature preserve designed to protect the local ecology.

Hamanasi guest- Elena Ollick

Photo by Hamanasi Resort guest Elena Ollick

The future of sustainability is going to be one predicated on a whole lot of solutions of varying sizes rather than a single massive answer to the question of climate change. That’s something that Hamanasi understands well. They’ve established themselves as one of the preeminent names in eco-tourism, but their adaptable plan for a sustainable future proves that they know they can’t just rest on their laurels. 

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