All posts by Laura Ell

Adventures in Eco Spa Development (Part 1)

One of the most healing islands in the world has to be the nature island of Dominica.  I have had a strong bond with the island since arriving there in 2005 to do some consulting for then Jungle Bay Resort & Spa which was just opening.  The 35 cottages on stilts in the rainforest overlooking the Atlantic Ocean was a magical hidden gem; its no wonder that it was the place where I began my love affair with Dominica.

Fast forward now to 2015 the resort had gained almost 200 accolades and awards but alas it was time to develop the next property.  I am delighted to say I am still part of the Jungle Bay team as we prepare to open the second Jungle Bay property late 2018 for a soft opening and in February 2019 for the official opening.

The new ecovillas and spa is overlooking the Soufriere Scotts Head Marine Sanctuary with world class snorkeling and diving.  Also near the new eco resort are hot springs both on land and in a couple locations just steps off the shore, creating amazing underwater bubbles to swim through!

The Jungle Bay site is situated on a historic lime plantation. Fun fact—it was the site that produced citrus for Rose’s Lime Juice Cordial in the UK. Therefore, in keeping with sustainable development guidelines we will retain  the remaining historic artefacts of the plantation and integrate them into the resort to create a more authentic “sense of place”.

Instead of cottages at this property, there will be upscale eco-villas,  more yoga studio space than before, a larger spa still offering all natural massage oils and treatments, plus a few new surprises and of course the signature restaurant and pool overlooking the coast with Joanne Hilaire chef extraordinaire at the helm.

My advisory role on the project includes input on sustainable construction guidelines, wellness, marketing, public relations and more. There are endless decisions to settle on when developing a new property and our team is amazing to work with. I am proud to say that included on this development team is my talented mother Valerie Ell who is the head interior designer.  Her her approach is toensure that as much of the luxury decor to be made from island materials so we are going to have some unique art featured in the villas that is found no where else.  Even the sinks will be crafted from the stone on the island by local masons. See the image to the right envisioned by Valerie and crafted by Gavin the local mason. The fixtures are yet to be added when it is installed in the completed villas in a few months (please pardon the dust its not ready yet).

So we are all very excited about the progress and cannot wait to host our first guests. I’ll keep updates coming here as the project moves along.

UNWTO 2017 Tourism Arrivals Show Africa is Not a $#%*hole President Trump

January 15th 2018 the UNWTO released preliminary figures on 2017 tourism arrivals and revenues. We will poke a little fun at President Trump who was in the news recently stating that regions such as Haiti and Africa are [explicit]holes. Well the numbers tell a very different story. With the introduction of new US policies and other factors, it is one of the few major countries listed to have a decrease in welcoming international tourism arrivals.

Before we dig into the numbers,  kudos to the UNWTO and contributing tourism researchers who  scrambled to get these stats to us faster than in years past, even if they are preliminary figures*!

International arrivals globally were up 7% in 2017 equalling about 1,322 million. The UNWTO World Tourism Barometer predicts a growth of between 4 and 5% for arrivals in 2018 stating that the growth last year is perhaps not sustainable at such a high rate..

Now lets review trends in each world region…

The Americas hosted  207 million international arrivals averaging 3% growth overall. Subregions were as follows:  

  • South America up7%
  • Central America up 4%
  • Caribbean  up 4%  even amidst hurricanes Irma and Maria which is impressive
  • North America was up 2% on average with robust increases in Mexico and Canada compared with a decrease in the United States!

Asia and the Pacific experienced 6%  growth with 324 million international visitors

Middle East was up 5% to 58 million arrivals*

Europe had 671 million visitors last year, an 8% growth over 2016

Africa: is estimated at 8% averaged across the continent (62 million international arrivals total)*

pexels-photo-247376 royalty free

Well isn’t that interesting–the African continent averaged 8% growth in arrivals and the Caribbean (home to Haiti) experienced 4% growth, while the USA experienced a decline.

So should Mr. Trump really call these regions (bleep)holes when clearly the world travelers have voted with their tourism dollars in favor of them over visiting the US under the current presidency.

Of course this article is a little in jest. A Namibia tourism spoof video was also circulating this week. But in all seriousness, while we do not yet have all the date of why US arrivals are down, its wonderful to see economic growth in developing regions which could certainly use the injection of foreign dollars like post-hurricane Caribbean,  Africa and the Middle East. We must remember that with the growth comes more responsibility to tourism professionals to develop and operate in more sustainable ways to handle the influx of visitors. UNWTO declared last year as the International Year of Tourism for Sustainable Development and we can should take that powerful endorsement to ethically deliver experiences for these 1.322 billion globetrotters.

I have been using sustainable tourism as a tool for poverty alleviation for 2 decades now and am proud to say that if planned well, it indeed does indeed change lives for the better while also providing memorable travel encounters.

Disclaimer from the UNWTO:

*All results in the above are based on preliminary data, as reported by the various destinations around the world, and on estimates by UNWTO of still-missing data. UNWTO will continue to collect data and will present more comprehensive data by country in the April issue of the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer. Results for both Africa and the Middle East should be read with caution as they are based on limited available data.

Helpful links:

UNWTO World Tourism Barometer

UNWTO Tourism Highlights, 2017 Edition

International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development 2017