Home-Shar­ing: The Fu­ture of Tourism

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - Keith­lin Ca­roo By

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?

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