OECS participants endorse consultations on community-based tourism niche markets

CASTRIES, St Lucia — Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) stakeholders in community-based tourism have welcomed recent national consultations as a timely activity to assist in developing the tourism product in their respective communities.

This follows the just concluded series of national tourism consultations across the nine-member grouping by the OECS Secretariat in collaboration with national tourism offices in the member states. Just over 280 persons from across the OECS participated in the consultations.

The objectives of the consultative workshops were to identify existing and potential opportunities to develop community-based niche products in tourism, and to identify opportunities to assist and support OECS member states towards successfully developing and promoting community-based niche tourism initiatives.

Josephine Dublin-Prince, who presides over the Dominica Community Tourism Association, said the consultations by the OECS Secretariat emphasize the importance of partnerships in developing and sustaining resources used for community based tourism.

“I think it was very timely and suited to what we really needed in Dominica. It’s really going to support our efforts in community tourism and also help to build our various member organizations,” she said.

James Daley is a heritage tour guide whose daily excursions, including research and hiking tours, take people through the interior of Montserrat. He said the recent OECS workshop on niche product development has revealed the significance of a more professional approach in the delivery of his services as a local tour operator.

“The message that came across was that we need to be prepared in a professional way,” he said.

Dr Loraine Nicholas of the OECS Secretariat said the consultations focused on the development and promotion of authentic, community-based experiences, which are directly driven by and for the sustainable development of host communities with the aim of achieving the following benefits:

• Enhancement of local community participation in tourism, to increase the direct benefits derived from tourism by local residents;

• Diversification of the tourism product to attract different market profiles;

• Fostering of sustainable linkages with other sectors including agriculture and the cultural industries;

• Developing more enriching, engaging and educational experiences, which are increasingly being demanded by contemporary tourists; and

• Identifying similar tourism products across the region that could be jointly packaged to facilitate multi-destination tourism development in the OECS.

The managing director and founder of the Jamaica-based Country style Community Tourism Network/Villages as Businesses programme, who served as the key resource person for the consultations, brought decades of experience and passion to the meetings.

The participants are looking forward to the second phase of this initiative through which community-based enterprises will be able to benefit from direct assistance to develop the tourism niche products that have been identified.

Out of 12 niche areas identified by the nine OECS member countries, the top two niche areas reported as having the greatest potential are: nature and eco tourism as well as heritage and cultural tourism. Other niches of interest included: agro-tourism, adventure tourism, health and wellness; and festivals and events.

The national tourism consultations were supported by the European Union under the 10th EDF Economic Integration and Trade of the OECS Region project.

That project, which is being administered by the OECS Secretariat, is being financed out of resources from the 10th EDF regional programme, and seeks to contribute to the establishment of the OECS Economic Union as a single economic and financial space through the development of a harmonized policy, legislative, regulatory and administrative framework, and the enhancement of the institutional capacity and export competitiveness of OECS economies.

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