Hamanasi is a secluded, casually elegant eco adventure and dive resort located in Southern Belize just outside of the traditional Garifuna village of Hopkins and nearby Creole and Mayan villages.  At Hamanasi, friendly, attentive staff, most of whom are from these surrounding villages, greet guests with warm smiles and award-winning service.   On property guests may enjoy lush gardens, 900 feet of beachfront, a freshwater swimming pool and 26-acre nature reserve.  In the Caribbean inspired architecture of the Great House guests may relax at the bar, in the library and on the wrap-around veranda.  Hamanasi’s Singanga restaurant serves Belizean and regional entrees using fresh ingredients from our organic garden.  Our 30 rooms boast handcrafted Belizean hardwood furnishings (many made in our on-site carpentry shop), air conditioning, ceiling fans, private porches and colorfully tiled bathrooms.   When Hamanasi added rooms instead of cutting down trees, we built treehouses, protecting our littoral forest — one of the most threatened types of forests due to coastal development.   Furthermore, we have reforested an adjacent property we recently purchased.  Now, the formerly denuded land is teeming with birds, iguanas and agoutis.

Hamanasi Adventure & Dive Resort, Belize

Belize is an adventure travel destination and Hamanasi offers 30+ adventures.  Guests may dive & snorkel Belize’s barrier reef and 3 atolls with Hamanasi’s PADI 5-star marine facility.  One popular excursion is our Lionfish Spearfishing Adventure, during which guests may catch the invasive species and our chefs will stir up something delicious!  Given our mainland location, we also offer daily inland adventures where travelers may explore mysterious rainforests, hidden caves, the world’s only Jaguar Preserve, ancient Mayan pyramids and more.  We hire only licensed Belizean tour guides and offer extensive continuing education. 

Sustainability has been an integral part of Hamanasi since it opened in 2000.  We were the first beachfront hotel in Belize to be certified by Green Globe.  We also are certified by Sustainable Travel International with the STEP program and earned TripAdvisor’s Green Leader Gold Level certification.  We have an active and committed Green Team that does many projects in the community. 

One of our core values is protecting our community, which includes people, as well as the natural environment.  In year two we created our Education Fund, which helps fund the education of many of our employees’ children.  Our Backpack to School Project provides backpacks of school supplies donated by guests to kids in need at area schools and remote villages.  In 2019, we collected 1049 pounds of donations.   Hamanasi’s has a Wellness Program for staff, partnering with Belize Family Life Associates (BFLA).  This program provides free monthly health clinics provided by BFLA focusing on specific topics while providing basic health tests.  Additionally, a nutritionist educates staff about proper nutrition, addressing many concerns raised in health clinics.  Finally, a fitness trainer developed a series of ongoing exercise programs for employees that are fun and keep them moving. A mental health expert meets monthly with individuals.  Hamanasi’s Internship Program provides high school and college aged students an opportunity to gain real-world work experience.

Hamanasi employees at a wellness program boot camp.
School supplies for Hamanasi’s Backpack to School Project, Hopkins, Belize.

Hamanasi also partners with the Hopkins Belize Humane Society, which helps give animals a better life, changes attitudes towards pets and helps control animal population and the spread of disease.  The Hopkins’s Eco Kids Club is supported by Hamanasi’s Green Team and educates local kids about the issues pertaining to the environment and community.  We support The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in Belize, which helps protect our reefs and inland forests.  Additionally, we sponsor the World Pediatric Project (WPP), which provides life-saving medical assistance to Belizean children.

All of these projects are supported by guests and Hamanasi both financially and in kind.  Guests are pleased to learn that they and the resort are positively contributing to the welfare of Belize and Belizeans.  Through its various projects, Hamanasi has seen greater employee happiness and retention, an improved work environment and healthier employees.  Through the work of the humane society, Hopkins and surrounding villages now have almost no stray domestic animals, which improves the experience for locals and guests, as well as wildlife.  Our wellness initiatives have worked their way into family homes and now locals are getting involved in our programs.  We feel that our impact projects have improved our business, the community and the environment overall.

Kids and animals at the Hopkins Belize Humane Society, Belize.

Vetting Process

Hamanasi’s philanthropic projects fall into roughly 3 categories – ones we run internally, ones in which we support the work of international NGOs and ones run by local NGOs.  Each project must help at least one of our Core Values, which are Our Guests, Our Employees and Our Community.  Hamanasi ensures that each organization we partner with is well run, properly licensed, and respects the community and employees.  We periodically analyze whether the project has the desired impact and if it can be improved.  For example, we look at how many activities were conducted, how many people/animals were impacted, were there any problems or conflicts, were the organization’s internal goals met, have there been any staffing changes, etc.  Importantly, we seek feedback from employees, the community and guests to determine if these projects are meaningful and impactful.

Employee Engagement

All employees receive sustainability training, which includes our tourism impact projects.  Any staff member is invited and encouraged to be a part of our Green Team or Wellness Committee, which implement many aspects of our philanthropy.  All employees with school aged children may apply for financial assistance through our Education Fund.  Each month, every employee is encouraged to participate in our free health clinics, as well as meet with our mental health counsellor, if needed.  Hamanasi ensures that employees are aware of the free veterinary clinics so that their and their neighbors’ animals may be treated.  We have had TNC and WPP representatives speak to our employees about what they do and how they can be involved.

Overwhelmingly, Hamanasi employees are thrilled with our impact projects.  All staff eagerly look forward to our fitness programs, i.e., the 5K, volleyball tournament and more, as these are fun, team building activities.  Many employees have learned about serious medical issues they have and are taking steps to improve their health.  They appreciate that Hamanasi not only cares about their work performance, but also about their personal needs.  They take pride that as company we are improving the environment and educating others about steps everyone can take.

Winners of the Hamanasi 5K race – a part of the Wellness Program, Hopkins, Belize

Funding Model

Hamanasi raises funds for its impact projects in a variety of ways.  Our primary way is by directly soliciting guests at the end of their stay.  Guests are given a list of our philanthropic projects and encouraged to contribute to those of their choice on their final check-out bill.  Hamanasi matches contributions for a number of these projects.  Each project has its own accounting entry to ensure funds are allocated to the correct organization.  Hamanasi has yearly audits to verify this.  Additionally, guests may give online.  For example, Hamanasi did a fundraising campaign with World Pediatric Project and funds went directly to WPP.  Hamanasi partners with Pack for a Purpose for in-kind contributions to the Humane Society, our Backpack to School Project and local health clinic.  Guests learn about this on Hamanasi’s website, as well as during the booking process. 

*Excludes donations of the complimentary stays auctioned by charitable organizations valued at USD$56,000+

Visitor Engagement

In addition to learning about Hamanasi’s impact projects from employees, guests learn about the projects in our in-room booklets, on tours, on our website and through social media.  Guests have the opportunity to give in-kind items directly, with the support of Pack for a Purpose to responsibly facilitate this process, and learn more about a project’s initiatives.  For most of our projects, it would be inappropriate for guests to visit and directly participate due to the nature of the project.  However, we try our best to educate guests before, during and after their stay about Hamanasi’s philanthropic programs.

Community Perspectives

Hamanasi has 170+ employees, many of whom are leaders in their communities.  We survey our employees about what types of needs their community is facing.  We consistently find that education and health are top of the list.  We ask the local schools and health clinic about their specific needs.  Observationally, we know that stray and poorly cared for cats and dogs have been ongoing problems throughout Belize.  Furthermore, we have learned from local fishing cooperatives, park managers and our marine team about the decline in reef health and fish stocks.  These problems are persistent and need on-going support, and we know our programs address these problems.  We communicate with our partners and assess if there are ways to improve our projects.

Community Partner Perspectives: Joan Burke, Executive Director, Belize Family Life Association (BFLA)

Belize Family Life Association and Hamanasi over the past four years have developed a strong social partnership through which the health, including sexual and reproductive health, of the staff of the resort, as well individuals are afforded much needed services.This partnership addresses Goal 3 of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, ensuring Good Health and Well-being for populations.  Additionally, it supports Goal 5, Gender Equality, as services, as well as education with all beneficiaries are delivered from a platform of equality and respect. This approach aims at building harmony in homes, communities and the workplace. 

This partnership also contributes to BFLA’s sustainability efforts and allows the association to fulfill its commitment to provide free and subsidized services to underserved and hard to reach communities. A number of persons from communities within the Stann Creek District are beneficiaries of breast, cervix and prostate cancer screening services, the expenses being absorbed through this social consciousness of Hamanasi.  The Board of Directors, Management and staff, along with all beneficiaries thank Hamanasi for its commitment to the work and sustainability of the BFLA.

Belize Family Life Associates at Hamanasi’s Women’s Day celebration

Lessons Learned

Engaging in impact tourism does take work, but it highly rewarding.  The best way to start is identify where the greatest needs are and try to address one.  If it has value, it will resonate with guests, employees and the community. 

At Hamanasi, our goal is to provide our guests vacation experiences of a lifetime.  In order to do that, we must have happy, healthy employees and healthy, thriving communities and ecosystems.  Thus, our philanthropy helps meet our core values.  It is integral to what Hamanasi is and does.  Our projects are successful first and foremost as they address real needs and have proven results.  For example, one of our wellness programs tested over 70 employees’ eyesight.  38 learned that they needed glasses, and Hamanasi helped employees afford them.  This was truly eye-opening and life changing for many. 

Second, we fine-tune and improve our projects yearly.  This ensures that they continue to use funds and resources efficiently and meet needs effectively.   Not everything we have tried has worked well.  For example, we tried a series of social media campaigns to raise funds for some of the organizations we support.  This tactic had minimal results, despite dedicating a lot of time to it.  Guests told us that once they were home, they focused on local causes.  As a result, we changed our tactic to encourage donations on property and saw great increases. 

Finally, we receive overwhelmingly positive feedback from our guests, our employees and our community.  It is important that the tourism industry supports the environment and communities as much of what we offer our guests relies on them.  Why would guests want to scuba dive a dead reef?  What would a rainforest hike be like without wildlife and lush foliage?  Would guests want to visit a village full of litter and unhappy people?  The answers are no.  Impact tourism helps to mitigate problems to the benefit of the community, the environment, to people and to the business. It is the triple bottom line in action.

For more information contact: Dana Krauskopf, dana@hamanasi.com
Website: https://www.hamanasi.com/

This Impact Tourism Handbook was made possible by generous financial support from Elevate Destinations, Hilton, Holbrook Travel, and Overseas Adventure Travel.