The work of reinvigorating the ecolodges at Asa Wright and Mt. Plaisir isn’t just about landscaping and a new coat of paint. We wanted to make an investment in the community that was more than cosmetic. We wanted to boost the entire ecosystem.
The first thing we did was walk the land. We took to the trails, and we traced the roads back to the surrounding communities to find out how we could all find new ways to support each other.
As we started sprouting new leaves, Regenerative Project Manager, Rheanna Chen, made sure we were setting up the right conditions for positive expansion.
“At the heart of regenerative travel is reciprocity,” says Chen. “Where we both give and receive with the land, sea, and people where we are based. We believe in the circular economy – a systems solution framework where we think global and act local. We address the world’s challenges like climate change, biodiversity loss, waste, and pollution, from a community-based approach. We welcome this opportunity to become leaders in the hospitality and tourism industry, going beyond sustainable.”
“From the very beginning, inclusivity has been our driving force at HADCO Experiences: how we can work in partnership with those who know these rainforests and coastlines like no other. We give respect to their ancestors who created the first trails, a network which knits the communities of the Northern Range together, and we are grateful they have passed on the indigenous knowledge and traditions of birds and plants. We are intentionally creating this collaborative experience. This is no easy task; we recognize the challenges but are committed to this journey.”
With regular travel to and through the Northern Range, making meaningful community connections, she turned these ideals into reality by laying the foundation for positive social and environmental impact in the months leading up to re-opening of the ecolodges. She shared a little of her process: “From my first day in October in 2022, I began with introductions, mobilising both communities: from Asa Wright Nature Centre, located from Arima to Las Lapas, Morne La Croix and Brasso Seco then heading East to Mt. Plaisir Estate in the village of Grande Riviere. This progressed to individual and monthly meetings with a variety of community leaders: heads of Village Councils and Tourism Action Committees, lead birders, turtle and hiking guides, agricultural cooperatives, fisherfolk, chocolate makers and more,” she explained.
During the hiring process for Asa Wright Nature Centre, HADCO Experiences made it a priority to offer positions (which ranged from housekeeping, drivers to supervisors) to the watersheds that geographically surround the centre. This included Arima (which was done in the past) and extended to Morne La Croix/ Brasso Seco and to Caura Valley (new). With the approval of community leaders, specific days were set for interviews. An open call was shared via word of mouth and flyers as well as online. While only about 20-30 positions were offered there were over 200+ applicants. The Community Centre in Brasso Seco was full to capacity.
It was important to find ways of reinvigorating these communities still recovering from pandemic losses, improving their sense of dignity and recognition for their wealth of indigenous, traditional knowledge. They are passionate about working in their own environment for sure. It is what they know. For some it is all they know, and we are making sure they know this knowledge is valuable.
“Through vision mapping sessions, we were able to narrow down the focus areas creating job employment, beyond traditional jobs, we are being creative in diversifying the community’s further income earning opportunities, offering specialty tours and workshops, supplying the farm to table restaurants and gift shops as well as youth training for succession planning. I listen to their stories, hopes and dreams and do my best to understand,” Chen offered. “As you can imagine, there are many moving parts working with such remote areas. We are doing our best through a more participatory approach: formal and informal interviews to capture and collect the data required, understanding what worked in the past and planning for the future. All this information better informs the managerial decision-making processes. Our success is dependent on the success of the community.” The groundwork is being done to bridge the gap and liminal space between, where we can build a resilient model that is good for business, people, and the environment.
These Northern Range communities are excited to share their hidden gems with every guest at HADCO Experiences. Find out more and book your stay with us at HADCO Experiences at Asa Wright or HADCO Experiences at Mt. Plaisir Estate Hotel today.