Stakeholders in Barbados’s tourism industry recently discussed how the country’s reimagined tourism development model could integrate community-led tourism during an online consultation with Diana McIntyre-Pike, president and founder of Countrystyle Community Tourism Network/Villages.
“Visitors seek authentic experiences, so there is no need to create attractions; people themselves are an attraction. Through the power of local culture, heritage, natural and social capital, communities can build businesses. However, relationships should be created to assist communities in various areas, including the development of business plans, training and a marketing network,” she stated.
McIntyre-Pike emphasised that community-led tourism is not a niche market but rather a sustainable way of moving a country forward, referring to Jamaica as a case study.
To this end, she encouraged participants in the forum to glean best practices and lessons from other countries that have already integrated the community-led tourism product into their models. However, the founder warned against rushing the development process and instead advised them to build strong relationships with local producers suppliers.
In supporting McIntyre-Pike’s stance, Minister of Tourism and International Transport Senator Lisa Cummins noted that developing community-led tourism would contribute to preserving Barbados’s cultural and heritage.
“It is not beyond us to reimagine authentic experiences that are safe and appealing to tourists. In addition, we must ensure that we preserve our environment and encourage community development through raising awareness of the importance of responsible tourism to both communities and visitors,” she said.
Such an effort would, however, require cross-sectoral support to include entrepreneurs, non-governmental organisations, civil society, the private sector, and local producers and suppliers, Cummins noted.
Moreover, the minister reasoned that community-led tourism would augur well for local Barbadians as they get the opportunity to enjoy, explore and appreciate their own country and culture.
“Barbadians have supported the accommodation sector during difficult times and community tourism can also increase our domestic tourism. Our intention is to stimulate growth in communities and sectors such as cottage industries, agriculture, transportation, retailing and manufacturing. This increased activity should contribute to the expansion of the domestic economy through growth in employment and national income,” Senator Cummins stated.
Coming out of the breakout sessions, participants highlighted the various measured needed to implement community tourism, including educating communities on the value proposition to be derived and creating awareness of tangible and intangible assets within communities.
They also suggested structured training programmes on how to create authentic and sustainable product and implementing programmes that focus on ‘transfer of knowledge’/mentoring.