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Sea, sun and… Sal’s precious resources

Small island nations are considered to be the countries whose people and environment feel the impacts of tourism sector operations the fastest and in the most extreme ways. Cape Verde, an archipelago located 600km off the coast of West Africa and made up of 10 small islands, is no exception.

cape verde surf

Over the past 5 years, tourism growth in Cape Verde has gone through the roof with an average year-on-year tourist arrival growth of 10%. This may not be as high as the 2000-2008 tourism boom that led to a 25% year-on-year growth, but it is nonetheless significant. This influx has been concentrated on the volcanic islands of Sal and Boa Vista where nearly 80% of all beds in Cape Verde are located.

This level of growth is not surprising. Sal and Boa Vista islands are strategically placed for the incoming operations of European tour operators. Both islands have international airports, to which it takes between 4-6 hours to fly from the main departure cities in Europe. Moreover, the temperature rarely falls below 25 degrees Celsius, the Sun shines almost uninterrupted throughout the year, and the beaches are idyllic for those seeking a stress-free holiday.

With such rapid and sustained growth comes pressure on water and energy resources, especially when 98% of water used is produced by desalination and a lack of investment has meant that the energy grid has not been updated to cope with the increased demand.

In the first half of 2016, the Travel Foundation commissioned research to discover what impacts the tourism sector actually has on the social, environmental and economic elements of Sal. We went on to commission a detailed study of the production and consumption of energy and water in hotels, restaurants and bars, with the aim of designing and implementing – in partnership with local and national tourism businesses and government agencies – an evidence-based action plan to improve the efficiency of resource management on the island.

Not only does this project meet the needs of a destination to improve the impacts of tourism, but it also meets businesses’ objectives to develop their competitive advantage, and aligns with the Cape Verdean government’s Energy and Water Efficiency strategy that responds to the nation’s pledge to meet the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

A common vision for a more sustainable tourism sector is key to the development of thriving destinations; and we hope that this project can contribute to a more collaborative approach to tourism development so that Sal’s people and environment can benefit.