The Caring Entrepreneur
A Strategy For Sustainable Community-based Tourism
The Caribbean is without doubt one of the most beautiful regions in the entire world. Palm fringed beaches, a beautiful tropical climate where it’s summer all year round, coupled with graciously warm and friendly people – what more could one ask for in a vacation getaway?
Little wonder so many visitors consider the region their vacation mecca of choice. However, with little industry to her name, and unable to viably compete in a globalized world economy the Caribbean is the most tourism dependent region in the world. And lurking just beneath the glitz and the glamour of this vacation paradise lies the ugly fact that as much as 85 cents of every tourism dollar takes flight from the Caribbean.
Imagine for a moment what your life would be if you could only keep 15 cents out of every dollar you earned! Where would you live? What would you drive? Where could you afford to send your children to school? Could you afford a vacation? …
But here in the Caribbean we are as resilient as we are creative and as you go about enjoying your vacation in paradise you might never know this flip-side hidden in plain sight.
Technology to The Rescue
While 20th century vacations revolved around sun sea and sand, today the internet has rendered this model all but obsolete. With the wealth of knowledge it places at our fingertips most travelers are so well informed about the places they visit that quite often they can tell locals more about their homeland than these locals even know.
Armed with these insights many of today’s travelers are seeking out Authentic Caribbean Experiences for more meaningful and memorable vacations.
This has created amazing opportunities for a new type of culturally immersive vacation experience that truly connects visitors with the destinations they visit.
Community Tourism Opportunities
Well it doesn’t get more authentic than being welcomed and embraced in a community. Here in Saint Lucia the community of Laborie comes to mind as an exemplary example of this warm and welcoming embrace.
Laborie is a rural fishing village just 15 minutes away from St Lucia’s international airport and to her credit this quaint little community has fast become the AirBnB Central of St. Lucia. But this didn’t occur by accident.
You see, communities on their own simply do not have the ability to manage and operate a successful tourism enterprise. Generally, residents are not fully aware of visitors’ expectations and many in these rural communities have no idea of what life is like outside their island. Ironically though, here in lies the charm of their lifestyle and their communities.
So while tremendous opportunity exists it can all go for naught without knowledgeable, yet caring assistance.
A Unique Model For Sustainable Community-based Tourism
I came to the realization of this reality after being invited to help a rural community gain greater value out of Saint Lucia’s World Heritage site that they were literally the custodians of. Being unaware of the treasure in their midst they were barely scratching the surface of the possibilities before them.
Sadly, they were missing the opportunities hidden in plain sight for giving visitors an amazingly authentic immersive experience. Such an experience would share the unique history, culture, cuisine, lived experiences and so much more of the essence of the community in a totally organic non-touristy way.
This led me to realize that for community tourism to have its greatest impact for both visitor and for local communities collaboration with a caring entrepreneur is a must.
But because it was so difficult getting the community to realize the potential of the treasure entrusted to their care I came to realize that for meaningful and lasting impact to occur early childhood education in a real world meaningful way was an essential component for success.
The Caring Entrepreneur
And so it was that I came to adopt a school deep in the heart of rural St Lucia. Together with the principal and teachers we explored what were the school’s most pressing needs. I then invited visitors doing my Private Island Explorer Excursion to assist by bringing over items from the school’s wish list and we’d visit the school as part of their private excursion.
Well this became such a hit with the students and the teachers, but most of all the visitors. Visitors began raving that these school interventions were the highlight of their vacation as it gave them a real and meaningful connection to both Saint Lucia and to the community.
Power of The Unexpected
This single action of including the school in the community tourism experience is delivering a tremendous payoff as young students now see tourists as real people rather than just some abstract idea they hear about on the news.
In fact it was quite interesting hearing one student relating stories of his mom who works at a hotel having met Kevin Hart and here he was having tourists come visit him at his school!
Best of all, by adopting this truly inclusive approach to tourism everyone is winning big. Heck, and maybe for the first time ever much more than 15 cents of very dollar is benefiting our local economy and rural communities!
A Study in Community Upliftment & Development Through Tourism
Sylvester Clauzel is a Sustainable Tourism consultant who helped develop a novel idea dubbed Community-based Heritage Tourism in Saint Lucia some 20 years ago. Additionally, Sylvester and I go back a very long way as friends walking home together from school. So it was a natural fit for me to seek out his consultancy support as I worked through the challenges of that World Heritage Site community.
It was during this consultancy that I shared with him my observation that for communities to enjoy the greatest benefits of community tourism the support and assistance of a caring entrepreneur was essential.
Well little could we have imagined that my simple observation would so define this strategy. And here we are today living out that vision of The Caring Entrepreneur.
Harnessing his wealth of experience as a university lecturer on sustainable community-based tourism and as co-creator of Saint Lucia’s Heritage Tourism Initiative Sylvester recently authored The Caring Entrepreneur – A Strategy for Sustainable Community-based Tourism which is available on Amazon. His book explores a model of tourism that is more inclusive than what currently obtains.
The book is an easy read that makes an excellent case for the importance of this shift in the way we practice tourism, especially here in the Caribbean. Sylvester demonstrates how taking this shift to it’s logical conclusion results in greater benefits for both visitors and the destinations they visit. Visitors experience an authentic immersion in the culture, history, cuisine and so much more of communities in a way that is more meaningful to both visitors and host communities than currently exists.
Your Book Reviews & Comments Are Important To Us
Once you have read the book we’d love to hear from you as your thoughts and comments are important to us. Sustainable Tourism requires the collective support of all stakeholders and you Dear Visitor are an important stakeholder. So getting to see both the challenges and the opportunities from your unique perspective adds value to this 21st century approach to tourism which is all about caring and sharing.
Join The Wave of This Caring Sustainable Community-based Tourism
To learn more about experiencing this culturally rich community-based tourism schedule a Zoom to explore the possibilities.