In previous posts I talked about the Problems of Tourism, and how Tourism is largely a self-involved business which basically involves the government and a business design merely to cater to travelers to our nature island.
As it stands now, Dominica spends millions on promotion, and the despite all the positive feedback we’re getting from travelers to Dominica there are still tourists leaving with same one complaints about the lack of proper accommodation and the problem of flights to and from our nature isle.
Let’s not underestimate the power of the spoken word. When dissatisfied tourists return home, they pass on their experiences to friends and family, negating the funds spent to advertise the country. That way we lose repeat and new business.
Enough whining and procrastination. Let’s move on to finally cleaning up Roseau and the other neglected areas of the island. Rather than wasting time talking about airy-fairy ideas such as the free movement of people throughout the Caribbean, and other similarly irrelevant issues?
The ministry of Tourism should get on with the revitalisation process. The government budget has been approved, it’s time we put our money to work in other to strengthen our fragile tourism industry.
Well, I don’t think there is much money being spent on tourism promotion, as the country can’t afford it, though the budget to NDC/Tourism dept has grown. The vast majority of potential visitors do not see the website ads, trade shows and small magazine items and we cannot rely on travel writers to do the job. I will be happier when I see a spot on cable tv (prime time television slot would be a bonus).
Again, I am the big picture advocate. Tourism is everyone’s business, and besides the island’s natural attributes, the welcoming friendly nature of the inhabitants cannot be undersold. However, we should not be doing basic things for the tourists primarily, but first for ourselves and let the tourists feel more welcome and comfortable as a result! Let’s maintain our stance on a good environment, pleasant physical space, and facilities like air access etc and be secure in physical and infrastructural planning into the future. This covers every aspect of living on the island: communications, health, education, agriculture, for example. In all of this, politicians must throw aside their selfish political ambitions and really serve the people they claim they are servants of! There are too many projects or development plans falling by the way of doing what’s politically expedient.
In plain language, let me cite an example: We know that the capital, Roseau, had from its 18th century outlay, been badly planned. Let’s not add to this dilemna in modern times. Why don’t we have a policy from an urban planning perspective, to set standards in place that will force home owners to do what is necessary to uplift the downtown environment? There are too many pockets of slum dwellings or poor construction in the city and the sad thing is that some of the owners can actually do better. What about the environmental health and waste disposal issues?
It has to start with setting and enforcing standards and having an all-encompassing plan that puts the citizens first, and does short-change them! Why don’t we actually encourage the city to be more of a true commercial center, with buildings to be proud of while at the same time encourage preservation of those historical buildings worthy of preservation? At the same time, we must understand that there may be a significant social burden to bear in the short term, as for example with taxes, as the money must come from somewhere.
In terms of physical planning, in some instances, it may be necessary for the government to acquire the property for the future good of the country and to effect better planned infrastructure such as sidewalks and pavements. Physical planning should not be seen only as a department that takes months to approve new structures and often does not monitor the construction after approval. There should be some responsibility in planning the space that we work, play and live and accommodate others, safely into the future.
Look at the case of the burnt out building on King George the 5th St. This prime real estate in the capital has been in this sorry condition for some 30 years. Woefully, the building is just a few feet away from the dis-embarkation point of the cruise ship visitors at the Roseau bayfront cruise ship berth. If only just from the tourism perspective, the government could have taken over this property a long time ago, and possibly put in its place a structure which could be used for the local craft vendors to sell. This would be far more attractive than the make-shift stalls lining the bayfront, some of which quite honestly are not very welcoming. It is my belief that the slow pace of much of the urban under-development has as much to do with limited vision, some conservitism, but also politics! We do not want to rock the boat or risk the ire of some of the voters who may not want to make the sacrifice for the good of the nation.
We know that some of the historical failures may be difficult and costly to correct, but its high time we lift standards boldly going forward as a nation. Also, some of this projects could be extended and planned for over a period of years. Rome was not built in a day. In taking care of the environment and our wellbeing, important industries such as tourism and agriculture will thrive and benefit. We have to start with doing the right things for ourselves, and let there be other spin-offs as it may. For example, you don’t (or should not) clean your room or house because of a visitor, but you do it regularly because its the proper thing to do!
I will give one commendable example: many, many decades ago, the country set land aside as a permanent natural reserve. This was way back then, when environmental and green policies was not vogue. This took a lot of vision, a vision that the Nature Island reaps benefits and awards for now.
Why can’t the political directorate,and local governments – and Dominica should also be proud of its local government – not only be more visionary and broader in thinking, but also more engaging with the public on those vital issues?These are issues that will leave a lasting legacy. This is the big picture that we must subscribe to. Sustainability for our own people first and visitors second. I remain proud of my native land, but tough decisions we must take, and quickly too, for ourselves first simply because its the right thing to do!
Pete – you have my vote. I could not have said it as well as you have articulated – let me just add that time has shown that relying on tourism as the main economic vehicle is not wise. The key to continued prosperity is going to be self-sufficiency and diversification. Given Dominica’s foresight in designating some areas as a permanent natural reserve and the abundant natural plant and animal life on the island, perhaps some thought should be given to luring companies that do research and develop products based on their research of what exists in nature. Of course you would not want them to disturb the natural habitat but they can certainly observe and perhaps develop greenhouse labs. Human beings have been and will continue to be very interested in their health making this a very sustainable industry – just a thought.
Good idea Suki. I think there is some action in this direction already. One such environmental, local fauna and flora research center is affiliated with a historical guesthouse: Springfield plantations. Incidentally, this old former plantation house had links to the wealthy american millionaire John Archbold, who bequeathed some property on his death, now put to use in the tourism/scientific education arena: a guest house doubling as a tropical research center!
This is known as the Archbold Tropical Research and Education Center
The site states:
“ATREC is committed to creating a passion for environmental stewardship and scientific curiosity in the Dominican community. As such, we are in the process of developing numerous partnership programs with local communities, businesses and educational institutions. We will continue to update our lists of partnerships as more are finalized.”
So researchers (they have hosted institutions such as the South Carolina Dept. of Agriculture, Arcadia University, University of Toronto, Salem College and Washington-Jefferson College among others) get a piece of history staying at this guesthouse, whilst immersed in the natural environment.
Other related research conducted included that on micro hydro potential. See: The State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) project:
There was also hosting of a workshop on Micro hydro:
I do not know what the business arrangements are, but I am sure those links have indeed promoted the island further, also trickling down to the economy!
Speaking of schools with foreign research connections, I am not sure you are aware, but the island is already hosting one of the largest offshore medical schools in the Caribbean (Ross University) and another one was also established around the capital a few years ago (later moved to the south of the island). While, these medical schools are not unique to only Dominica, it represents another avenue for bringing in money from foreign sources.
Unfortunately, I think the tourism division misses the boat sometimes in sharing the costs of marketing, whilst maximizing exposure of the island. I have lamented on that before, where for example, recently, one of the foreign Universities had boasted presence in Dominica for 30 years, with a beautiful underwater picture, in a full page US magazine ad, but only mention of the island was just that they were located in Dominica and nothing else!
There are many instances where such organizations market for their own purpose, but with a little proactive participation, the government could piggyback on that and highlight what the country has to offer (similar to what Sandals and Delta Airways do when they also promote the islands in their ads, whilst simultaenously sell their service offerings). Indeed this would be a perfect opportunity in Dominica’s case, as those institutions can also showcase sustainability and environnmental sensitivity, on serene island: a theme that resonates well with many these days!
So one can say that there is some diversification still within the tourism/services arena and also related to the educational area. In additional to enhancing the scientific value of the island, and bringing in money to the local economy, there are also opportunities made available to locals in education and even in encouraging enhanced competences (Ross Univ for example have sponsored relevant university degree education for many of its local administrative members of staff). These are examples which show that the benefits of foreign investment can be multi-fold and sustainable and do not have to be environmentally degrading (such as a factory).
Another succcess story was the film industry interests, the most famous of which saw Dominica as the shooting venue for one of the largest movie blockbusters: Pirates of the Caribbean.
There is much potential for attracting industries which are not the traditional tourism and yet still within the theme we want to portray of the island. Likewise the potential geothermal generation can be minimally invasive but still represent a sustainable business which can be exported to bring much needed income!
We need to highlight these success stories even more, and just be agressive and think outside the box to go after more!
I am aware of Ross University though you are correct, it is almost treated as a separate entity from the island when you look at their marketing. I agree that a symbiotic relationship between the island and its existing successful entities is in order – it saves money and creates a reason not just to visit but even perhaps to relocate – where better to live and work then in paradise?
The geothermal generation is very promising and Dominica can be in the forefront of this ground breaking initiative. All this of course leads to sustainable economic opportunities for people on the island both within and outside of tourism while minimizing the amount of investment (by the government) necessary to achieve those goals.
I must mention though, as someone who dabbled briefly in government affairs that thinking outside the box is not often welcomed by others in government (there were people who were very angry with me for actually reading and demanding an explanation for budget increases). The focus is too often on getting reelected and providing lip service to the people rather then getting things done that the people will probably not know anything about but will benefit from. Politics and consciousness are often enemies, one of my favorite motivational speakers Les Brown talks about that in one of his tapes – cowardice asks the question is it safe, politics asks the question is it popular but consciousness asks the question is it right?
Neither politicians nor government can be accused of doing what is right which leaves that task to the people themselves. No one can stop any group of concerned individuals on the island from forming their own task force and working with the existing organizations to promote the island, it is through community activism that innovation and outside the box thinking often prospers. I don’t know if you are on the island Pete, but if you are, the island needs you.
I am not on island now, but I did spend much of my life there, later employed in the corporate world. From the experience and also since I keep in touch and visit at least once a year, I think I have some knowledge of the issues and am able to look at things from different angles. It is otherwise easy to be biased and look at things from the perspective of a developed country, particularly if you don’t have as much appreciation of how things are on the ground. I would prefer to stay away from politics and whereas I make my unnanounced contributions (outside of commentary on this post), I do not expect to relocate back to the island soon.
Currently attached to a non-profit institution, I can understand that outside-the-box thinking is often not promoted or encouraged in a bureaucracy, and often you are on your own in doing so. I believe though, that by being open, we can, not only avoid re-inventing some wheels, but also learn from some lessons of those who think strategically and are bold in action, whilst realizing there sometimes are many paths to arrive at even a better solution than the traditional.
I also appreciate island politics for what it is. I think Chris does a very good job integrating the news with the concerns and burning questions; and there are some great comments and rebutals on this post. I would like to see some more islander participation or even comments from officials though, as I know that they are seriously plugged in to all media! Let’s all continue to have a healthy debate!
In reference to put your money to work. Chris there is one thing that you need to understand, and that is, Treasures are hidden and the majority do not have access to it. Dominica remains a treasure due to the fact that it is hidden and only those who can appreciate it should know where it is. Take a lesson from the rest of the tourist destinations in the world and you will understand why access to DA should be limited.