Home-Sharing: The Future of Tourism
Just before the dawn of the New Year, the President of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association, Patricia Affonso-Dass, published a message of reflection and optimism on the past year. In it, she highlighted the resilience of our people and the “abundance of opportunities” that lie in the near future. While this message of reflection gave hotel owners, operators and government partners an optimistic outlook for 2019, 2018 seemed to me, to be a series of losses for the general populace. We underwent another hurricane season as unprepared as the year before—even with climate-resilient financing flowing into CARICOM nations. Farmers and people involved in primary industries are still largely absent in the tourism industry and, most of all, our food importation bill has not changed. While we boast of fresh produce on hotel plates, we are still consuming a largely imported diet.
According to statistics, Saint Lucia boasted 1.1 million visitors in 2018; new cruise lines and air routes have been directed our way and announcements of the opening of new hotels are becoming the norm. But with all of these developments in “big tourism”, why has this not translated into more money earned by the wider population? A few years ago, “village tourism” was a phrase that was widely used. It was described as the advent of a new tourism that was inclusive to all, but it seems that while Saint Lucia is following the path of “big tourism” and exclusivity, other islands such as the British Virgin Islands are on the forefront of inclusivity. Recently, the BVI signed a memorandum of understanding with homestay provider Airbnb to lease or rent short-term lodging. This move was said to “democratize the tourism economy” while driving local, authentic, and sustainable tourism to the territory. Other nations, such as Dominica and Grenada, have also followed suit after realizing the increasingly important role that Airbnb has played in their tourism sector.
While traditional vacationers have used hotels as their main source of accommodation, millennials are turning away from tradition. Home-sharing has begun to revolutionize the tourism industry and has expanded opportunities for everyday citizens to earn an income. Furthermore, it allows tourists to stay in areas that are not typically tourist-hubs, giving them the true essence of the country visited. Moreover, it can shine a light on areas that are generally overlooked which in turn would increase the development of those areas. So, the question is, where does our future lie: in the exclusivity of “big tourism” or the inclusivity of home-sharing?
Keithlin Caroo is the founder of Helen’s Daughters, a Saint Lucian non-profit with a special focus on rural women’s economic development through improved market access, adaptive agricultural techniques, and capacitybuilding. It was formed in 2016 in a winning proposal for UN Women’s Empower Women Champions for Change Program. To learn more about the initiative, visit: Facebook: Helen’s Daughters Instagram: helensdaughters.slu Website: helensdaughters.org
Does Saint Lucia’s focus on “big tourism” hinder the economic benefits that the island could have from the sector?