The Hemisphere’s Next Vacation Hotspot

Dominica positions itself for sustainable tourism

With new air routes from Miami, the island nation of Dominica positions itself for sustainable tourism

By Yousra Benkirane

Floating along the scenic Indian River, our expert boatman Aza points out places where the second “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie was filmed. Also hidden amongst the mangroves is a secluded local hangout, the Bush Bar, where “Time Stands Still. “The motto is fitting – tucked among majestic Bwa Mang trees, and offering homemade coconut and rum cocktails, time really does seem to stop at this jungle gem. Here, as elsewhere, locals are happy to proffer advice on where to visit on this tiny island nation in the Caribbean’s farthest reaches.

No matter where you go in Dominica – and no, the country has nothing to do with the Dominican Republic, so don’t let the locals hear you say that – people will offer up lessons on the island’s flora and fauna: which fruits you can eat, what teas you can make, and which leaves are used as medicine.

Prime Minister Hon. Roosevelt Skerrit

Throughout the picturesque island you can find coffee, bananas, cocoa, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, papaya, guava, and pineapple, amongst other plants. As you might expect, agriculture is Dominica’s main export. The country trades mostly with other neighboring Caribbean islands, but even Miami receives a portion of its ginger imports from here.

In recent years, however, Dominica has sought to increase their services exports – in particular to position the island as a destination for sustainable eco-tourism, attracting new types of visitors looking for a rustic tropical vacation that treats the environment responsibly.

As it is, the island offers stunning natural habitats that align with its Ministry of Tourism’s goals to promote agra-tourism, aqua-tourism, and adventure-tourism, among others – like tubing through the famous Titou Gorge, where I tried to stay dry in my tube despite Mother Nature’s opposite agenda. To further Dominica’s eco-tourism agenda, the government has put extraordinary efforts into protecting the island’s natural habitats and wildlife. In its promotion of sustainable tourism, it encourages visitors to preserve the nation’s unspoiled natural beauty and requires new developments to use renewable sources for things like power and water.

These initiatives go hand in hand with Dominica’s efforts to protect itself from natural disasters, since the island nation, like much of the Caribbean, is susceptible to climate-related increases in tropical storms. In 2017, Hurricane Maria wreaked havoc on the island, much of which is still recovering. Shortly after the crisis, Prime Minister Hon. Roosevelt Skerrit promised to rebuild the country as the “world’s first climate-resilient nation” at the 72nd United Nations General Assembly.

To follow up on his vow, Dominica began pursuing initiatives to become a leader in the development of renewable energy sources. Currently, wind and hydropower account for 28 percent of Dominica’s electricity production, and the nation hopes to achieve energy independence by 2030. The government offers incentives for the importation of solar-related equipment and is working on several sustainability projects, including the installation of solar streetlights and, most notably, geothermal plants that will convert heat from the earth’s core to electricity.

In March 2019, the World Bank approved a $27 million investment for the first of these geothermal projects, a 7-mega- watt geothermal power plant which aims to increase the share of renewables and diversify the country’s energy matrix. “This is an extraordinary opportunity for Dominica to reach its energy and climate goals by investing in geothermal, and to build a greener and more resilient future,” says Tahseen Sayed, World Bank Country Director for the Caribbean. “The country has huge potential to provide reliable, low-cost, renewable, and high-quality energy in support of climate resilient growth.” That effort is now expanding with the island’s Geothermal Risk Mitigation Project to further lower electricity costs and increase the share of renewable energy in the country’s energy grid from 25 to 51 percent, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 38,223 tons of carbon per year.

The project is truly international in scope: The Dominica Geothermal Development Company Ltd is implementing the project with a $17.2 million credit from the International Development Association, $9.95 million from the World Bank’s Clean Technology Fund, and $10 million in grants from the UK’s Department for International Development. Technical assistance is being provided by the governments of New Zealand and France, while proceeds from the country’s Citizenship by Investment Program are also providing part of the funding (see sidebar). Already, a $12.5 million contract with Iceland Drilling Company is producing two wells for another geothermal plant expected to be operational by 2024. It will also generate foreign exchange by providing electricity to the neighboring French islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique.


Take Coulibri Ridge, a 14-suite off-grid luxury resort atop a mountain ridge in southern Dominica, just minutes from Soufrière Bay, where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Caribbean Sea. The brainchild of Canadian-born entrepreneur Daniel Langlois, Coulibri Ridge was originally designed as a long-term research project on creating and running a cutting-edge, self-sufficient eco-resort tightly entwined with the local community. As we walked through the villas, built from stone sourced from the property, Langlois explained how solar panels fuel all the resort’s power needs, how all its water is filtered rainwater, and how much of the restaurant’s produce is grown on-site.

The project took more than 20 years of research on environmental testing, infrastructure building, and community engagement to ensure the highest level of sustainable development and collaboration. Celebrating its official grand opening in October of 2022, Coulibri Ridge is now a model for self-sustainability. “This was to push the limit of what can be done,” Langlois says. It’s also self-consciously high-end, with a 1,000-square-foot Sky Penthouse that comes with a private pool and terraces that overlook the sea, Martinique, Morne Fou summit, and Sulphur Spring Valley. Part of what is sustaining the growth of eco-tourism in Dominica is new accessibility.

Prior to 2021, most people who visited Dominica had to go through neighboring islands. But in December 2021, American Airlines launched direct flights from Miami. It started with two flights per week, grew to three flights per week in early 2022, and now offers daily flights. Partly as a consequence, North American tourists have grown from 17 percent of total visitors to 30 percent. Samuel Johnson, CEO of Dominica’s International Airport Development Company, explained how prior to AA’s direct flight, most visitors were experienced divers or nature enthusiasts coming to see Dominica’s coral reefs. “Now, we have seen more and more casual visitors just come to explore.

If it was not for the direct flight, Dominica would never make their radar.” Johnson’s company plans to open a new international airport in 2026 to handle the growing demand. “Now, we have seen more and more casual visitors just come to explore. If it was not for the direct flight, Dominica would never make their radar.”

The new international airport will also allow for long-haul flights complete with a cargo facility that has refrigeration capabilities. Since Dominica grows one of the largest varieties of flowers in the Caribbean, the new airport will allow it to become a flower exporter at an international level. According to Miami International Airport, 90 percent of fresh-cut flower imports to the U.S. enter through MIA, so a Dominican flower source could join the floral flights into Miami once the air cargo facilities expand. “The airport is more than just tourism, but also our ability to trade,” emphasized Johnson. “By 2026… the existing [airport will] be bursting at the seams.”

While floral exports will boost the nation’s income, however, Dominica is betting that sustainable tourism will be the driving force for economic development. In competition with the sun, sea, and white sand beaches that other Caribbean islands also provide, Dominica is offering a new way to travel. With the latest eco-projects and the development of the international airport, the island is positioning itself to become a recognized global tourist destination. From the food to the waterfalls, it’s all about the adventure. Taking sulfur mud baths in a tub hidden by trees, exploring the rainforest, or eating meals made from locally sourced food items, all provided a whole new experience for me. Sustainability isn’t just a trend for the island – it’s becoming way of life.

By my fourth day in Dominica, I had discovered a hidden adrenaline junkie in myself, deciding I would take the plunge – literally – and go cliff diving. Unbeknownst to me, that meant climbing up a small mountain in my bare feet behind a half-naked man dripping water all over the slippery rocks. After hurling myself off of Mount Everest 2.0, I crashed into the waters below with a newfound appreciation for the country’s natural playground.

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