Iberostar Takes a Step Towards the Protection of Coral Reefs with "Wave of Change"
By Megan Morikawa Global Sustainability Office Director, Iberostar Group | October 27, 2019
Corals represent just 1% of the world's surface but hold about a third of the world's biological diversity. Without urgent action to address climate change, pollution, overfishing and other threats, these beautiful and life-sustaining organisms as we know them could disappear. Roughly one-quarter of coral reefs worldwide are already considered critically damaged, with another two-thirds under serious threat.
Iberostar Group has more than 120 hotels and 80% of them depend directly on the health of the coastline for successful business. Moreover, 80% of the company's facilities in the Caribbean are protected by coral reefs. This territory amounts to about 2.3 square miles of coral reefs which are directly responsible for the protection of Iberostar hotels across the region. It's estimated that a healthy coral reef can absorb nearly 95% of the wave energy of a tropical storm before it hits the coastline. From economic analysis conducted by The Nature Conservancy and World Resources Institute, we estimate that these 2.3 square miles of reef provide protection from storms, increase tourism, lucrative dive operations, healthier beaches, and more reef fish totaling approximately USD $2,000,000 of value per year.
Those same reefs also provide the home for reef fish which are not only the local option on the hotel buffet menu, but a primary source of protein for most of the communities that employ and surround those hotels. On a more global scale, coral reefs are the canary in the coal mine for climate change. It's one of the ecosystems that's expected to feel the impacts of climate change first (Iberostar is already seeing drastic impacts from warming oceans in the Pacific), and it's an ecosystem that we're in great peril of losing as we know it.
Local initiatives alongside global influence are critical for successful marine conservation, and the hotel industry happens to have both. Those combined make the health of the oceans a critical component for sustained business for even the next generation, let alone generations to come. However, the greater part of the reefs in question are endangered and threatened by many stressors and, consequently, restoration plays a key role in ensuring their continued ecosystem services and protection.
At Iberostar Hotels & Resorts, we have drawn a road map in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, focusing on people, the driving force underpinning our company's success, and the environment, with a special commitment to the oceans, and have implemented a movement called "Wave of Change." This movement, which started in 2017, is based on three complementary, but clearly different action lines: eliminating the consumption of single-use plastics, promoting responsible seafood consumption and the improvement of coastal health.
This three-pronged approach to protecting oceans and encouraging responsible tourism includes: