While one may say that Tourism is vital to the entire Caribbean region, are all the islands ready to accept that fact? Is the populace willing to accept the facts of preparing to provide realistic tourism to the visitors?
Tourism is vital to the entire Caribbean region, A study undertaken by the Oxford Economic organization in 2010 found that tourism played a larger role in the Caribbean economy than it did in any of the world’s other equivalent areas. Tourism is one of the Caribbean’s major economic sectors, with 25 million visitors contributing $49 billion towards the area’s gross domestic product in 2013, which represented 14% of its total Gross Domestic Product. It is often described as “the most tourism-dependent region in the world”. Yet the majority of this income — perhaps as high as 80 cents in every dollar — “leaks out” of the Caribbean.
The words “Sustainable Tourism” is being banged all over the Caribbean these days, but has anyone involved in tourism and beyond really given credence to that need. How sustainable is tourism? Have we acknowledged the need for Responsible Tourism? Gone are the days when tourism existed just because we wanted the Foreign Exchange in Exchange for nothing tangible. With the cost of money these days, travelers are very conscious of the way they spend and what value they receive for the hard earned money. Besides hotels and restaurants, services to tourism such as tours, excursions and entertainment, there are the required additional infrastructure, including: airports, roads, sewage treatment plants, landfills, electricity supply and telephones.
The Caribbean countries continue to struggle to maintain a firm foothold in today’s world. Their economic position places them somewhere in the middle of the world economies. Their relatively high level of education and the fact that the women and girls have equal access to education are cause for optimism which can lead to improved growth. However, the nations’ small sizes and limited resources are cause for concern in the future. The lack of proper small and medium size hotels and Bed and Breakfast Facilities due to owners’ lack of operations knowledge is also a very major matter for concern.
Caribbean people and Caribbean Governments need to realize that travel is no longer a luxury that you tax out of existence. Traveling to and within the Caribbean is extremely, extremely expensive and that has placed a damper on travelers who want to book to travel to the Caribbean. One has to deal with the cost which is high mainly because of Government’s additional taxes, airport taxes and the stress of connecting and or delayed flights.
So I ask the question again. Are all Caribbean Islands really considering the importance of Sustainable and Responsible tourism and travel? Have they really considered the elements for successful tourism such as our Caribbean culture which is at the heart of the Caribbean experience? While many tourists arrive in the Caribbean in search of the perfect paradise many leave with an appreciation for everything that the Caribbean truly has to offer – other than its unparalleled landscape. They must be reminded that to have an unforgettable Caribbean experience they must take the time to experience the Caribbean culture on every level, from the cuisine and music, to the natural surroundings. The history and the language have to be explored and appreciated together with the participation in the events and festivals.
Then there is the other factor, Eco Tourism which is for those who are interested in responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.
There may be no better place to get in touch with nature than a Caribbean island. Imagine waking up in a tropical rain forest, on a beach, or high up on the side of a mountain. Camping isn’t your only option, however. If you’d like to plan an outdoor day trip, there are national parks and other natural areas on nearly every island.
For an overnight stay under the stars, Caribbean campgrounds are an eco-tourist’s dream comes true; there are numerous designated campsites for outdoor enthusiasts, especially in the United States-owned territories. However, certain islands actually discourage campers because they are trying to protect their island’s ecosystems.
The tourism industry is a major employer throughout the region, directly supporting an estimated 687,000 jobs and another 2,167,000 indirectly in 2011. However, many of these jobs are seasonal and very low-paid, while the money generated by internationally funded projects fails to reach locals. In fact, only 15 percent of the Chinese-funded Baha Mar construction project in the Bahamas found its way to local laborers.
In order to be the leader in tourism, especially for islands like Dominica, there must be the following consideration.
- development of a community-based tourism policy and strategy;
- full assessment and analysis of the tourism assets
- identification of a clear role of tourism in the present trade negotiations processes;
- development of an environmental oriented tourism development strategy;
- improvement of tourism understanding and skills of local and regional stakeholders.
Governments, Tourism Authorities and Hotel and Restaurant Association must recognize the Tourism assets as they are the factors of attraction of the tourism destination which determines the choice
of the tourist in favor of the destination. Normally, a tourism destination has different assets such as
natural, historic-architectural, socio-cultural, gastronomic, infrastructural (sport systems, colonial and government buildings, churches and state houses, beautiful and colorful picturesque buildings, etc.) and their combination makes the holiday more attractive and interesting.
Transport: it is the accessibility of the tourism destination. It has to be assured by both the infrastructures (roads, motorways, ports and airports) and the transport organization towards
the area (number of flights and ferries, road conditions, etc.). The easiness of access to the tourism
destination obviously makes the commercialization (and interest) of the tourism product easier.
Tourism services: they are all services provided by local and international operators in order to make
the tourism assets of the tourism destination available to the tourism demand. They are public services
(public transport, environmental hygiene, safety, traffic/roads, sanitary service, etc.) and private services
(accommodation, customer service, airport/ferry transfer service, tourist guides, animator staff and
entertainment, car rental /bike services, events and festivals, etc.).
In modern tourism strategies the tourism services are very important in order to specialize the tourism product following the particular needs of the targeted tourism segments.
Information: it is very important for the tourism product because it permits the connection between the holiday motivations of the tourist and the tourism assets of the destination. The role played by the
information system is as follows: i) to allow the knowledge of the tourism assets (factors of attraction);
There must be that lead and interest to create a good image of the tourism assets in order to influence the tourist choice and to create added value to the tourism supply.
Tourism demand: this is the element that influences the organization of the other aspects of the tourism
product. The different characteristics and requirements of the several tourism segments have to be taken into account by the tourism suppliers in order to organize a competitive tourism supply.
Improved Planning and Management which is best handled by outside Travel Planners and Marketing Companies
Health Concerns have become a predominant factor in the choosing of vacation or business destinations. While we may say that a tourist may be coming from a community or location with much more dirtier streets that does not reduce our need for responsible tourism.
Factors for consideration:
- i) Maintaining and Developing a High Standard on Environmental Quality;
- ii) Addressing Socio-cultural and Economic Issues;
iii) Encourage the conservation and sustainable use of natural and cultural resources by tourism enterprises;
- iv) Intensity training and in-service education for a more sustainable approach to tourism;
- v) Involving Local Communities and Other Stakeholders (including the poor).
Then and only then can we consider being Sustainable and Responsible as a Tourist Destination. It is not just about how much we can cash in at the expense of the tourist, but how much of an impression we can leave with them based on the experience
Joseph Edward Doway Tourism Consultant and E Marketing Content Writer
Visit us at www.4dhospitality.com.