Giving locals a voice in tourism development in St. Kitts

Implementing an island-wide resident survey to gauge community perceptions of tourism

Employing 1 in 10 people globally, tourism has the potential to benefit a large number of people. By creating jobs, driving infrastructure improvements, and promoting inclusive growth, tourism is a powerful tool to fight poverty and foster community development.

With all these benefits, one might assume that local residents would be fully supportive of tourism in their backyards. The problem is that sometimes tourism development has the opposite effect and diminishes local quality of life. Without proper planning, tourism growth can bring about new challenges for locals, such as unaffordable housing prices, dwindling resources, and a loss of cultural authenticity. Over the last year, there’s been increasing global discussion around the issue of “overtourism” and its consequences in more popular destinations, where some communities are literally telling tourists to go home.

How then does a destination prevent this situation from happening before it’s too late? It all comes down to finding the balance between tourism growth and local needs.

To ensure that tourism enriches local communities, destination managers must pay attention to resident concerns and engage them in development plans. Happy residents play a major part in creating an enjoyable visitor experience and successful tourism industry. When residents win, everyone wins.

Our Role

The Caribbean island of St. Kitts is a destination that is well aware of the importance of sustainable, community-driven tourism. The warm and welcoming Kittitian people are undeniably the heart and soul of the island. The St. Kitts Ministry of Tourism is working to make sure that they are at the heart of tourism as well, by giving them a voice in development.

To gauge local attitudes toward tourism, Sustainable Travel International supported the Ministry in administering a resident survey in 2017. This was the first survey of this kind in St. Kitts. Over 320 Kittitians, representing all parishes and demographics completed the survey.  The results examine how well tourism in St. Kitts is meeting local needs, creating opportunities for residents, and impacting their quality of life. A follow-on survey was conducted in 2021 to analyze changes over time and identify opportunities where more can be done to adequately meet resident needs.

Understanding resident concerns is the starting point. The next step is taking action to address any existing or potential issues. The Ministry is using the survey findings to guide policy and program interventions, making it a valuable tool for community development.

Of course, as tourism grows and the destination changes, residents’ feelings and priorities will change as well. Engaging residents should be an ongoing process. We will continue to support the Ministry to create additional avenues for residents to share their opinions and be involved in decision-making, as well as implement future surveys to monitor changes over time. To learn more about the other ways that St. Kitts is encouraging sustainable development and community-based tourism, click here.

Header Photo Credit: St. Kitts Tourism

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