Closer ties ‘needed between communities and tourism’, say experts

Tourist boards have stressed the need to build closer ties between communities and tourism and for destinations to focus on telling their “stories”.

Speaking at Global Travel Week’s Unity Through Tourism panel session, representatives for the Caribbean and Africa (pictured) highlighted the importance of making sure clients understood a destination’s heritage and culture to ensure both holidaymakers and destinations benefit from tourism.

Barbados Tourism Marketing senior business development officer Marc McCollin said travellers needed to see and talk to real communities in the destination.

He said: “Covid has taught us we need to get our people in Barbados more involved [in tourism]. There is so much more we can do to link communities and tourists together.

“We have been conditioned that tourism is about beaches and hotels. It’s about changing the narrative; it’s more than just a hotel, it‘s a destination.

“We need to talk about our best kept secrets more. It’s all about story telling, authenticity and engaging to become more inclusive.”

Tobago Tourism Agency UK representative Nadine Rankin said the destination was trying to find ways tourism could include more locals and “make everyone see the benefit”.

An example could be tourist weddings being held in communities rather than being “the preserve of the hotels”, she said.

Kgomotso Ramothea, hub head UK and Ireland of South African Tourism, added: “It’s important for everyone in the value chain to realise the benefit of tourism.”

Carol Hay, chief executive, McKenzie Gayle, said ensuring better relationships between ‘tourism and the communities’ would lead to greater tolerance and a positive economic impact on destinations.

She said: “We have to be unified in tourism so communities can see the benefits. The public and private sector need to cooperate. The decision-makers and those who deliver [tourism] must be in sync.

“We want to create experiences that respect heritage and culture and allow travellers to differentiate experiences. We want to know that destinations are not just putting on a smile to please us but that they want to be part of tourism and want to share their heritage.”

Tourist boards also suggested working more closely to promote travel to each other’s destinations.

Andy Price, trade sales manager, Uganda Tourist Board, said: “Why can’t we work with our competitors and work across not just Africa but also the Caribbean?”

Rankin agreed: “There are opportunities for us to help each other . But we have a huge job to do in the Caribbean and globally to make people understand if you have enjoyed the African experience then you have a great time in the Caribbean too; a similar but enriching experience.”

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