Mass Tourism: Are we lying to ourselves?

Home Forum General Off Topic Mass Tourism: Are we lying to ourselves?

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    While recovering from the devastation of two category 5 hurricanes the Tourism sector had an eye opening moment. With the destruction of many of the major hotels how and where will tourists spend their money? Pssh.. that’s easy right? Cruise ships come in from December to May and they have guests who spend money when they land right?


    While ships do still frequent the Virgin Islands and guests from these ships do make some purchases,a large majority of dollars earned from tourism actually comes from Villa and hotel guests. Now, that doesn’t mean that the Virgin Islands hasnt been making money off of tourism this year. We certainly have been visited by many ships this season but with the temporary closure of establishments like the Mariott how do we make more?
    ***( Drum roll)****

    Step Away from Mass Tourism. Let’s define mass tourism as a form of tourism which involves travel from tens of thousands of people yearly who visit the same resorts, travel with the same cruise liners who reccomend the same restaurants, beaches and taxi men. Frustrating isnt it? While this could have worked a couple of years ago I think it is obvious now that more sustainable approaches need to be taken with tourism not just in the Virgin Islands but in every Caribbean Island.

    So some of you may be thinking, What’s the deal with sustainable tourism? This form of tourism is named after its ability to maintain and promote economical growth. There are various types of tourism which can be seen as sustainable and the more each type is tailored to involve the community and its people the more real growth will occur.

    Consider this example:
    One type of tourism which can be seen as sustainable is agro-tourism. Some of us may say. How does agriculture and tourism tie in? Well.. today’s visitors seem to be different. They seem not to want to spend their money on 75K diamond watches and cuban link chains. Today’s visitors crave experiences. An example of how agro tourims can be utilized and assist the multifaceted development of the community can already be seen in the virgin island community in St. Croix on the ridge to reef farm. This farm is an organic farm which is opened to visitoras both tourists and volunteers. Guests on this farm assist with farm duties, learn about sustainable agricultrual practices, healthier eating and get to enjoy a very beautiful part of the St. Croix island. Furthermore, the farm works closely with other farmers and agriculturists on the island. Agro tourism could include farm tours such as those that occur at Ridge to reef but more importantly than that they can offer tourists with tangible experiences. a true different way of life.

    While there will always be room in the market for mass tourism. it can easily be seen that there are those who crave more. Agro tourism is just one example. many more exist and can benefit all of who are involved not just the few.

    God Bless

    Sydney Paul

    I am all for sustainable tourism! I think that there is an untapped market when it comes to attracting tourists who are looking for a more meaningful experience when they travel or vacation. Usually, these tourists are also younger than “cruisers”. So I think we need to let go of, or distance ourselves from, the mass tourism model, especially on St. Croix. Thankfully, I think St. Croix is on the right track to distinguishing herself, because each island is unique and it would be irresponsible to market all of our islands the same way.

    Agro-tourism is an EXCELLENT example! There tons of states and Caribbean islands who are already embracing the model and making great strides! If you’ve heard of wine tours in California or apple picking in the fall, strawberry picking, learning how to make honey, etc, then you should definitely understand how feasible that model would be for St. Croix in particular. But there are more types of sustainable tourism strategies to choose from.

    Volunteer tourism is a trending model to look at. It’s a billion-dollar industry that can bring in money and make a great impact if structured responsibly. I’ve already heard of several families who have visited St. Croix on a cruise ship and connected, on their own, with a community organization to do a community service project for the day. There are university groups who have come down on spring break trips to help create hiking trails also. If we took that approach, I think St. Croix should focus more on environmental voluntourism.

    There’s also immersion vacations, where you stay with host families for weeks at a time to learn more about the culture. Things like this appeal more to younger travelers, in the millennial generation, are looking for adventure and ways to “find themselves.” I think it’s a win for us however you look at it because we’re showcasing a deeper side to our culture through these models–really distinguishing ourselves from other destinations, but also keeping our tourists here longer which means they spend more money. More money in our pocket to be frank.

    Of course, there’s sports tourism, medical tourism, creating a space to host major conferences, etc. However, there is still an air of mass tourism and overcrowding with those and it takes away from the charm that many younger tourists are looking for nowadays.


    My parents placed a high premium on making me a resident of the world. They urged me to learn of other places, visit them and take away from each something that would change the way I looked at life and contribute to bettering the community I eventually chose to live in.

    My avatar speaks to the extensiveness of my travel experiences.

    In experiencing other countries what is essential is understanding history, culture and traditions. Individuals are products of their community, the community is a product of history, culture an tradition and the country itself is simply a reflection of all its communities.

    As a visitor, regardless of the weeks or months you visit you learn of a community’s history culture and tradition through interacting with those who live there or, if your visit is short, through tours that allow you to experience and understand the place you are visiting.

    For most of us a series structured tours provided by locals unveil history, culture and tradition. Tours are the quickest way to go below the surface of what is visual to gain an understanding of the soul of a community. In many countries cultural and historical tours is a major component of the visitor experience. Night time activity offers limitless opportunities to experience local culture and foods. These experiences also contribute to the local economy because they are provided by locals and not foreigners.

    Yes, visitors to our Virgin islands have numerous options to tour our physical environment. However, we offer far to few opportunities to understand our history, experience our culture and learn of our traditions. And, as such we are the looser. The absence of these immersive experiences leave few lasting impression that go beyond pictures of scenic beauty and tropical experiences that are similar to many other destinations in our Caribbean region.

    The Virgin Islands is a special place and we need to more forcefully communicate that reality. If we do not make it a priority we can not complain when we are considered just another commodity destination, easily replaceable, in the winter tour cycle of the winter traveler.

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