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USF Patel College of Global Sustainability Celebrates World Tourism Day On Anna Maria Island

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About 30 students, staff and faculty traveled to Anna Maria Island to celebrate World Tourism Day. The theme this year is a 1 Billion Tourists, 1 Billion Opportunities.


The day began with an introduction to World Tourism Day that included the following message from the UNTWO


Every time we travel, for whatever reason, we are part of a global movement; a movement that has the power to drive inclusive development, create jobs and build the sustainable societies we want for our future; a movement that builds mutual understanding and can help us safeguard our shared natural and cultural heritage.


Anna Maria Island, and more specifically the Pine Avenue Restoration Project was selected for the celebration because of the opportunity it provided to visit and experience a number of the billion opportunities that is making the island more sustainable, preserving the culture, and giving a boost to their economy.


Some of the major activities of the days celebration included a tour of the permeable walkway, Edible Gardens, the sustainable and hurricane resistant buildings, the rain water collection systems, the historic green village, the businesses seeking to be more healthy and sustainable, and a sustainable tasting lunch and celebration of World Tourism Day.


Anna Maria Island, Florida is a barrier island in Manatee County. On the west is the Gulf of Mexico, On the South Longboat Pass, on the East Anna Maria Sound, and on the north Tampa Bay. It has a rich history being discovered by the local Timucan & Caloosan tribes, later by Spanish explorers, and named by Ponce de Leon for the Maria Anna von der Pfaiz-Neuburg, the queen of Charles II of Spain.




Anna Maria Island


Our day began with an introductory history and overview of the area from local residents Caryn Hodge, Mike Coleman, and Mike Miller. Dr. David Randle from the USF Patel College of Global Sustainability provided the context for World Tourism Day including the reading of the World Tourism message from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. Dr. Randle also shared that the Blue Community Consortium Program, which the USF Patel College is a member, was just approved as a new United Nations World Tourism Organization Affiliate and that along with World Tourism Day we would be celebrating this program as the first program with the new affiliate status.




USF Patel College of Global Sustainability Participants


The participants then split into smaller groups to tour the areas with each stop providing an idea of how tourism can be more sustainable, preserve the culture and/or improve the economy.


The first thing brought to the attention on the tour was the use of permeable walkways. Permeable walkways have numerous benefits including:

    • Surface water management. Unlike concrete or asphalt, the permeable walkway can both absorb and clean the water as opposed to overwhelming the sewer systems
    • Reduction of irrigation demand. By allowing the water to seep into the ground the direct surrounding areas need less water for irrigation saving money as well.
    • Local heat island effects. By allowing water to filtrate in the ground the surface and surrounding temperatures are cooler than hard surfaces. Little difference like this will increasingly become more important for tourism.
    • Overall Better appearance. Aesthetically, permeable walkways look better, smell better better connect with nature and natural environment than ugly concrete and asphalt.

Our next stop was the Edible Gardens. There are over 30 Edible Gardens on Pine Avenue that include a variety of fruits and vegetables that grow year round even in the hot Florida Summer sun. The edible gardens development were assisted by ECHO. ECHO is internationally known for its expertise in tropical agriculture. The gardens provide a supplement of food for local residents, visitors, as well as herbs and spices and sometimes vegetables for the local area restaurants. While touring the gardens we also learned of a supplemental project to bring bees into the area.




Permeable Walkway and Edible Gardens Developed with ECHO


From the Edible Gardens the group then visited the sustainable buildings. These buildings are energy efficient, quiet, water conserving, and hurricane resistant up to 250 MPH winds. This is 100 miles MPH greater than the most strict Florida Building Codes. The buildings utilize energy star appliances, solar glazed and hurricane resistant windows, water conservation devices, LED lighting, computer controlled temperatures that go to 82 F when unoccupied and cooled to 76 F when guests arrive. There is an override to further reduce the temperature to 72 F, but only with permission of the management. The result is that these buildings have received the Florida Green Building Coalition Platinum rating. Costs for this innovative approach was actually less than conventional construction.




Florida Green Building Coalition Platinum Certified Tourist Accommodations


Our group then walked down the street viewing some of the shops and learning about the rainwater collection system to assist with the area irrigation. We then arrived at the Historic Green Village Area.


The Historic Green Village is a business district that is powered by solar power, and assisted with geothermal. The village also includes a 9000 gallon rainwater collection system and utilizes native landscaping that does not require any irrigation to maintain. The solar power includes 400 solar panels on buildings, and car ports. The solar panels provides up to 60 KW of energy when operating at peak performance. Over the year the solar panels produce 85 mwh, about $10,000 worth of energy. Our group visted late morning and it was already producing 47 KW when we arrived. It was producing 50 KW by the time we left about 1/2 hour later. The geothermal in the green village cools the water for the air conditioning system, thus reducing energy needs. The Green village also has a plug-in station for electric cars.




Water collection, solar panels, electric plug-in station, and meter reading


As we made our way up Pine Avenue to the Sandbar we passed Poppos, a local mexican restaurant that uses all local foods and natural ingredients. Poppo’s also features a biodegradable water bottle as another way to reduce waste and particularly address the issues of plastics in the oceans. Poppos sometimes uses herbs and spices from the Edible Gardens.


Our last stop of the program was the Sandbar whose owner and CEO Ed Chiles has developed a local program that serves as a global model for sustainable food. The three restaurants in the Chiles Restaurant Group source 50% of their food locally.


The Chiles Restaurant Group has leased the 26 acre Gamble Creek farm where they grown both hydroponic and organic vegetables for the restaurants. They also helped found the Anna Maria Fish Company in nearby Historic Cortez Fishing Village that has allowed the restaurants to be supplied with a variety of sustainable seafood while also providing the fishermen more stable employment and a better income. They have further found ways to turn invasive species into menu items for the restaurants. Two examples include the Lion Fish and the Wild Pig which they have developed a program to serve these foods in the restaurants. Finally the restaurants have developed a composting program for the food waste that is then returned to the farm to avoid the need for chemical fertilizers. Further study is underway to exam the feasibility of also turning some of the food waste into energy as well.




World Tourism Day Celebration at the Sandbar Restaurant, Anna Maria Island, FL


At the Sandbar, participants were treated to a sustainable seven course tasting lunch designed for our group to celebrate world tourism day, The meal included smoked Mullet from the local Anna Maria Fish Co, a salad from the Gamble Creek farm, and Chiplote sausage from the Wild Pig to illustrate some of the sustainable menu.






The group was then encouraged to enjoy the beach, kayaking, paddle boarding, bike riding, and other tourist amenities in the afternoon to complete our World Tourism Celebration. Before the group left for various outdoor activities, each participant had an opportunity to enjoy a piece of our World Tourism cake to complete the meal and formal part of the celebration.




The program was a great opportunity to examine a few of the billion opportunities that are in practice on Anna Maria Island that other tourism programs around the world can adopt to better preserve the environment, celebrate and preserve their local culture, and improve the economy through the creation of new jobs and keeping money in the local community.


It is our hope that the Anna Maria Island story might inspire you to consider what you can do to be more sustainable as either a tourist business or individual traveler. We are also interested in hearing your stories as well that we may learn from.


The UNWTO has provided examples of other stories for World Tourism Day. Af few of them are provided below.


Thanks to Sara Matulonis & Justin Farrow for contributing some of the photos in the article.


Dr David W. Randle – Director USF Patel College of Global Sustainability Sustainable Tourism, Managing Director International Ocean Institute Waves of Change Blue Community Initiative, and President & CEO WHALE Center.


Follow David Randle on Twitter

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