We love to see beach photos like this one in Saint Thomas from Chad Sparks.
Today, JetBlue and The Ocean Foundation released Eco Earnings: A Shore Thing, a report that highlights the connection between ecosystems and revenue. Leisure travel to the Caribbean is a key pillar of JetBlue’s business model, with many customers flying to the region to enjoy sand and sun, beautiful beaches and pristine waters. However, the ecosystems that support and provide these crystal-clear, turquoise-tinted seas are at risk. Some have already grossly deteriorated. Large-scale environmental degradation in the Caribbean is a risk to demand for leisure air travel to the area, thus impacting JetBlue.
Tourism brings 22 million visitors a Year to the Caribbean, including from cruise ships and multiple destinations that JetBlue does not serve. Regardless of how they travel to the region, these millions of tourists create revenue, jobs, and improved GDP, but tourist consumption contributes to the more than 100 million tons of trash per year that end up unprocessed in open – air dumps or local waterways in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Trash littered beaches don’t encourage vacations. (photo courtesy Jackie Marks Marine Photobank)
This land-based trash quickly finds its way into the ocean via wind, rain, storm surges, and poor human stewardship. It washes up on beaches, contaminates fragile ecosystems, and is a health hazard to animals and humans alike. These impacts , coupled with the fact that 89.1% of manmade debris produced in the region finds its way to the Caribbean waters comes from shoreline and recreation activities (such as tourism), make the nexus of travel, tourism, and environmental degradation in the Caribbean a particularly important area of study.
Eco Earnings: A Shore Thing seeks to begin to measure both the risk and return to JetBlue from the region’s natural attractions. This study starts to link the importance of clean, intact, and healthy beaches and shorelines to tourism’s profitability in the Caribbean, with a focus on JetBlue and industry revenue per available seat mile (RASM).
Our study began by observing a positive connection between ecosystem health and RASM. The goal is to calculate the impact of key factors important for the Caribbean’s overall health including water quality, and waste along the shorelines.
When conducting a bivariate analysis to compare each eco-factor to stage – adjusted RASM — with 1.0 meaning a perfect causal relationship between that factor and RASM — A.T. Kearney confirmed a correlation between these eco-factors and RASM, although not causation. Mangrove health had the highest correlation with RASM of 0.3. Beach trash was second at 0.21, and water quality was third at 0.17. Among the factors affecting water quality, chemicals status was the most import ant factor
Through this initial study, we found positive correlations among water quality, mangrove health, limited waste on shorelines, and RASM, but more data is required to statistically prove and validate the model. This interim report serves as a call to gather more information about shoreline health and to rally the efforts of policy makers, the tourism industry, and tourists to protect the Caribbean’s greatest natural resource.
Click here to view the full version of EcoEarnings: A Shore Thing