As unsustainable overdevelopment in Utila, Honduras, continues to cause irreparable environmental damage to the island’s fragile ecosystems - threatening the viability of the tourism industry itself - Postcards from Utila negotiates the fine balance between resource over-exploitation and the economic importance of tourism revenue.
Located north of the Honduran mainland along the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, Utila is the smallest of the Bay Islands, and one of the cheapest places globally to obtain a PADI Scuba Diving certificate. Although originally remote and inaccessible, today, the island is a dive and party mecca, having been visited by 142,785 people from 2002 to 2006. Sadly, due to increased tourism revenue and overpopulation, unbridled over-fishing, coral reef degradation, mangrove destruction and over-development patterns in the sector are being allowed to continue to cause irreparable environmental damage. This type of unsustainable development further continues to threaten the long-term feasibility of the tourism industry itself, whilst promoting social stratification and intensifying existing inequalities amongst the diverse members of Utila’s social fabric. Regardless of Utila’s prominence in Central American tourist guidebooks, such issues are hidden from tourist ephemera; further exacerbating the aforementioned plights and perpetuating neglected communities’ reliance on scarce government and foreign aid handouts. Postcards from Utila explores these alternate realities and urges the audience to recognize the ways tourist framing dictates their perceptions. With close ties to several local NGOs, the film also explores positive initatives from the private as well as corporate sectors and encourages both the locals as well as the visitors in Utila to become cognizant of their environmental footprints. As the unparalleled and detrimental commodification of terrestrial and marine resources continues, the situation on the island is endemic of all coastal communities worldwide dependent upon marine tourism. What unites these locations is the immediate and urgent need to negotiate a fine balance between resource over-exploitation and the economic importance of tourism revenue.