ApaNa Issue 2 April – July 2020
A community-based sustainable tourism journey within st.lucia’s UNESCO world heritage site – The Pitons
By Kirk Elliott
It is accepted within economic circles that the Caribbean is the most tourism-dependent region in the world. It is also well-established that the Caribbean enjoys one of the lowest economic yields from tourism compared to other world regions. On the flip side of these worrisome facts more and more of today’s travellers are no longer interested in just sun, sea and sand, but instead are seeking authentic local experiences that introduce them to their destination’s unique culture, history and cuisine. “Flavours of the Caribbean” we might call it! Many travellers especially the younger demographic, tend to be more socially and environmentally conscious and wish to ensure that the money they spend abroad has the greatest impact on the people of the country they visit rather than further benefiting large foreign-owned hotels that repatriate profits back to their homeland.
The Fond Gens Libre Back Story
It is with this scenario as the backdrop that I first came to learn of the community of Fond Gens Libre in Soufriere, Saint Lucia, having been invited to assist the community in developing a tourism product par excellence. Fond Gens Libre (translating to – Valley of the Free People), is home to descendants of the island’s freedom fighters or Maroons. A significant percentage of the community’s residents earn a living as tour guides, leading visitors up the island’s world-famous Pitons. Fond Gens Libre lies at the base of the Gros Piton, the taller of Saint Lucia’s celebrated twin peaks and serves as the gateway to the ascent, hence the business model. In 2004, UNESCO inscribed the area on the World Heritage List as The Pitons Management Area World Heritage Site in recognition of its geological significance and its superlative natural beauty.
While the Gros Piton Hike is extremely popular, in its current iteration it barely scratches the surface of its true…
St. Lucian-born Kirk Elliott is an internationally-acclaimed photographer and photo educator. He is also a Sustainable Tourism Entrepreneur & Activist with over 25 years of experience in the tourism industry. He is the owner & creator of the St. Lucia Photo Tour which was inducted into the TripAdvisor Hall of Fame in 2019. Elliott serves as a Director at the Saint Lucia Hospitality & Tourism Association, as a Councilor at the Saint Lucia National Trust. He is actively involved in this unique Community-Based Sustainable Tourism project within a UNESCO World Heritage Site.