Social Media For Community-Based Tourism

By Kirk Elliott

Saint Lucia Rasta Man Sustainable Tourism
Rastaman Tours – Photo by Kirk Elliott

Tourism is today the primary fueler of many a Caribbean economy.  However, the World Travel & Tourism Council’s 2018 Economic Impact Report shows that the Caribbean remains the region with one of the lowest economic yields by region.

In seeking to identify the cause of this lower than average yield we must assess how tourism revenue is generated in the Caribbean.  Such an assessment shows that the greatest value-added occurs within the hotel and the cruise sectors. 

This comes as no surprise considering that these operations are immensely capital intensive and therefore companies in this line of business have traditionally negotiated contracts with governments that ensure their profitability and by extension their continued business.

A Wind of Change is Blowing

Rapid advancements in internet technology have however been the great disruptor, with social media being the vanguard of this disruption as today visitor experiences are shared at the speed of life.  This paradigm shift has created amazing opportunities for the savvy and the nimble as travellers today are seeking out authentic cultural experiences instead of the sun, sea and sand experience that was all the rage a few short years ago. 

Many travellers today enjoy multiple mini-vacations annually that run over the course of as little as a weekend getaway all the way to four- or five-night stays abroad. 

And it is these same travellers who rave about the Rastaman boat tours that take them on a family farm to enjoy mama’s local cooking and her special spice rum brew that’s guaranteed to cure all ailments. A brew that is simply not available anywhere except for under mama’s kitchen counter. 

Then when pictures and video of this special time make their way onto these travellers social media feeds in real-time guess where their network of friends are heading next?

An Unexpected Economic Bonanza

This new world order has created an opportunity for Caribbean islands to value add at the community-level by creating immersive visitor experiences that introduce travellers to the unique essence of home-spun Caribbean hospitality. 

Best of all, visitors have indicated with their wallets that this is exactly what they crave, and when communities showcase how the money these visitors spend contributes to early childhood education, community empowerment and higher standards of living, inter alia, the economic yield will mushroom as travellers share their spectacularly amazing experiences. 

This might be the catalyst that catapults the Caribbean’s economic yield emanating from tourism …

What do you think?

Kirk Elliott is a St Lucian Photographer and Sustainable Tourism Entrepreneur committed to the promotion of Community Based Tourism that leads to capacity building and poverty alleviation leading to grassroots economic development with Empowerment through Education as an overarching objective.