Bees

Getting a buzz out of volunteering…

Every year, TUI employees have the opportunity to apply for ‘Project Discovery’, a volunteering scheme exclusive to TUI, whereby Travel Foundation matches employee skills to those needed on overseas projects.

Alex and RosieMost recently, successful applicants Alex Morris, Senior Retail Marketing Manager, and Rosie Sumner, Product Manager, jetted off to sunny Cancun, Mexico, on 9th August to begin their placement. Here they explain what they’ve been up to whilst they’ve been away:

“Our volunteering project is building upon the success of the Jungle Jams project. Supporting a local Maya cooperative ‘Muuch Kaab’ to sell their honey-based products to tourism-focused businesses and the domestic community. This provides the community with the opportunity to earn a living from tourism, without the need to move away from their villages and families. The project also helps to support the conservation efforts of the Melipona honey bee, which is a unique stingless bee that is in danger of becoming extinct.

Our aim is to support the development of Muuch Kaab’s branding and marketing, whilst guiding two hotels (El Dorado Royale Spa & Resorts and Grand Park Royal Cancun Caribe) on communicating ‘buying locally’ to their guests.”

Alex says….

‘From day one we’ve been really busy – meeting the local Travel Foundation representatives, visiting the rural community where the project is based, meeting local hoteliers and talking to customers to understand their views on sustainability practices and local produce’.

Rosie says..

‘For me it’s been an incredible experience to understand how these women have overcome so many challenges and yet still managed to grow their business so successfully from scratch. There’s such a huge contrast between the simple lives they lead in their village, and the hustle and bustle of Cancun which is just an hour’s drive away. It’s a side to Cancún that tourists never really get to see, and it’s really made me realise how important it is that TUI as a tour operator and the wider tourism industry here in Mexico work together to support communities like this’.

brand workshopDuring their time in Cancun, one of the elements of the trip was to deliver a branding and marketing workshop to the community group. Alex says…

‘One of the highlights of the trip has been delivering a branding and marketing workshop to the Muuch Kaab group- we decided to use similar techniques to how we would normally work here in head office, with mood boards and sample beauty products for them to touch and feel. We gathered some really useful feedback on what they want their brand to look like going forwards and sketched out some new designs for them. It was a unique experience and one I’ll never forget’.

Rosie and Alex have a few more days remaining in Cancun, when they’ll be visiting the members of Muuch Kaab one last time to share their findings and feedback, and visiting some local hoteliers to deliver their recommendations on how they improve the communication of their local procurement policies.

And it’s not all hard work, as Rosie explains:

‘Although our itinerary is jam packed with meetings and report writing, we have a few days off whilst we’re here – we’re planning to visit Isla Mujeres on our last day and we’ve also been out visiting some of our other key hotel concepts in between exploring the local area – we’re trying to fit in as much as possible before we head back to our desks in Luton!’

Project Discovery provides extra capacity and expertise on Travel Foundation overseas projects. It also helps build an understanding of sustainability for those who work in the industry, but have UK based desk jobs.

Green pledges bear fruit in Mexico

Sustainable Tourism Expo

Terry Brown, our new Destination Officer, recently visited Mexico, meeting local and regional government, NGOs, hotel associations, hotel representatives, tour operators and local entrepreneurs.

The focus of the visit was the 7th Sustainable Tourism Expo (formerly known as ‘Green Expo Riviera Maya’), which is a platform to bring together green businesses, local producers and the tourism industry.

“One of the things many people were enthusiastic about was connecting Maya communities to the tourism industry, involving commercialising Maya crafts and tours to jungles, communities, and ‘cenotes.’ ‘Cenotes’ are natural wells which lead to beautiful underground rivers.”

As part of this event The Travel Foundation presented 11 awards to tourism businesses, NGOs and local businesses who fulfilled their ‘commitments to conservation’, made the previous year. See this video (in Spanish) to find out more about the successful green pledges.

We were pleased to see the Abejitas Melipona honey cooperative ‘Much Kaab’ and the Pitahi ‘jungle jams’ group proudly presenting their products at the expo. The groups attracted lots of interest in their products, achieving so many direct sales they had to send for more stock.

Both groups also now have commercial agreements with various hotel chains thanks to the Green Pledges initiative and hard work of our Programme Coordinator in Mexico, Yuri Flores.

“It was great to meet so many people from the region that are passionate about sustainability and are working towards preserving what is such a beautiful destination alongside the massive projected growth of tourism along the Riviera Maya, an area which already receives over 4 million visitors a year.”

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Melipona beekeepers deliver first order of honey products to hotel

Much Kaab Cooperative packing honey products for hotel

The Travel Foundation’s Melipona bee project in Mexico started to pay dividends recently, as the Much Kaab female beekeeping cooperative despatched their first order of honey products to a hotel.

The Grand Park Royal Cancun Caribe received its first delivery of toiletries containing the honey – which is supposed to have special healing powers – on time and on spec. Guests in the VIP section of the hotel will be offered a soap “cheeseboard” on arrival, with a choice of different soaps.

The order for more than 1,000 items – including shampoo, shower gel and soap ­­– earned over £2,400 for the beekeepers. Keen to work with local suppliers, the hotel agreed to special terms and conditions of payment that benefit small business such as the Much Kaab cooperative.

Much Kaab Cooperative making soap

Araceli, president of the cooperative, said, “I want to show society that we can reach success, we can reach our goals and rise against all odds. As a group mainly of women we are doing something to banish discrimination against women.”

The group’s administration manager, Mirna, who is expecting her fourth child, said, “I’m using this money to buy the first clothes and diapers for my soon-to-be-born baby.”

Another member of the group, Erlinda, added, “I’m willing to save money to take my boy to rehab and buy medications, as he is a boy with special needs. I know of other children who have received this care and they have a better quality of life… my kid deserves that as well.”

Maya communities in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula have been keeping stingless Melipona bees for centuries. Sadly, numbers of these special bees are declining rapidly and the bees are threatened with extinction. It is estimated that there has been a 93% decrease in hives in the last 25 years.

As part of a project set up with funding from Thomas Cook and Co-operative Travel, the Travel Foundation planted 450 fruit trees to boost the bees’ natural habitat, and provided extra bee boxes and training. Now we’re helping the beekeepers to make a living by selling honey products to hotels. The products are branded “Much Kaab”, meaning united or working bees.

Bee innovation at Taste of Fethiye farms

Bee on tomato flower-crop-landscape

Semsi Toprak reports from our Taste of Fethiye project in Turkey…

Farmers sometimes use bees for fertilizing the plants in their greenhouses. The bees are introduced artificially from hives that consist of boxes that can be moved from place to place according to where you need them.

Farmers on the Taste of Fethiye project were using imported bees from Holland or Israel to do this job until several years ago when some entrepreneurs established bee breeding facilities in Antalya. These bees are a particular species that are specifically bred to aid tomato production inside greenhouses.

himmet-inan-crop

Taste of Fethiye agricultural adviser Himmet Inan

Bees work for about two to three months inside a greenhouse and then the colony has a resting period.

Taste of Fethiye agricultural adviser Himmet Inan usually advises farmers to use at least one hive per greenhouse, but this year two neighbouring greenhouse farmers wanted to see if it would be possible to use the same hive but in different greenhouses to fertilise their tomato plants. We approved the idea to see if it could be a good way to reduce costs by sharing bees.

However, when we were carrying out our routine farm visit in order to provide advice and help to the farmers we found out that the bees were not working as we expected and were not fertilising the tomato plants as they should. Following some investigations and discussions with the farmers we finally got to the bottom of the problem. It came to light that the farmers were also using the bees to fertilise their cherry trees!

What they hadn’t realised was that if a bee starts to fertilize cherries, they don’t want to work on the tomatoes anymore because they prefer cherries! Luckily Himmet was on hand to point this out and advise that the bees were not to be let out of the greenhouse to fertilise the cherries. He added that bees in the greenhouse are actually looking for a way to get out and fly around cherries because they taste better than tomatoes. If we had not been there as part of our routine visit the farmer’s crop would have been seriously compromised.

Read more about Taste of Fethiye