Promoting authenticity in Caribbean tourism


David Jessop (Antillean) looks beyond international branded beach resorts. Here are excerpts:

AFTER YEARS of idling in the doldrums, visitor arrivals to some parts of the region are increasing rapidly, travelers are spending more, and the yield for hoteliers is improving. Moreover, as demand soars, it is getting much harder for visitors to find a quality hotel room on short notice in the high season in Cuba, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and some smaller Caribbean destinations like Aruba.

Aside from Cuba – a special case following the virtual lifting of US travel restrictions late last year – this rapid increase in demand for a Caribbean vacation largely reflects the fact that disposable income in the main feeder markets in North America and parts of Europe is increasing as economic recovery occurs, and travelers begin to feel more financially secure. It is also the case that some Caribbean destinations, such as parts of Jamaica’s north coast, have again become ‘hot’ in the eyes of those who define aspirational destinations on social media and in print.

[. . .] What this means is that the tourism industry in many Caribbean destinations is not only making a significant contribution to national economic recovery but again demonstrating its often-ignored significance to the wider Caribbean economy.

[. . .] For those willing to look beyond the horizon, the issue now is about reorienting and developing the Caribbean tourism offering to reflect changing international demand for the authentic, for quality service and cuisine and value for money — even where prices are high. It reflects too an understanding that a significant part of the higher-end of the market is looking for much more than just a luxury hotel and a beach in the tropics. [. . .]

None of this will be easy as it requires properties, restaurants, attractions, and – if they are able to become better corporate citizens – the internationally branded chain hotels, to think in a vernacular way and come together to renew and develop the product in a manner that promotes the uniqueness of the Caribbean nations in which they are located.

By the ‘vernacular’ in tourism, I mean giving greater consideration to the genuine in the physical, cultural and social environment in which tourism takes place. [. . .]

[. . .] There are already some interesting examples in the region of how the vernacular might be achieved. The most apparent approach has tended to be in old colonial districts. At its most successful, it is a few streets in the colonial part of old Havana, but it also exists in a number of largely upscale hotels and some restaurants in Grenada, Barbados, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba.

This is not to disregard what the Caribbean already has, but to suggest that there is a need in future for a more creative approach that ensures that, from the moment a visitor arrives, they are not in a pastiche of the authentic. [. . .]

[Photo above by Les Haines.]

For full article, see

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