Music and the Eco tourism linkage
Dominica's National Park was declared a World heritage Site in August 1997 making it one of the few acclaimed heritage sites in the English speaking Caribbean. Within this park, and all around the country there are several which tourist, (particularly cruise tourist) visit daily as an attraction. Some of the most popular heritage sites are: Fresh Water and Boeri lakes; The Sulphur Springs; Emerald Pool; Trafalgar Falls; Cabrits; Trafalgar Falls; Indian River; Karifuna Barana Aute (Kalinago Territory).
All of the above do have potential for creating linkages with music and culture as was successfully done in the Irish cities of Cork, Dublin and Galway. Providing the necessary infrastructure at the above sites, can improve visitor frequency and enhance their overall experience. The combined efforts of music as a catalyst in heritage tourism has been done in a number of countries such as sister island St Lucia who uses Jazz music at Pigeon Point to attract visitors and Jamaica who uses reggae, Bob Marley and Hope Road.
The heritage sites in Dominica for instance enjoy a weekly average of approximately 150 visits in the case of the Fresh Water Lake to well over 3,500 at the Trafalgar Falls. No entertainment is provided in any organized way at the Cabrits, Carib village or the Trafalgar Falls where there are reasonable reception facilities. A small fee of EC$8 is charged and in some cases such as the Botanic Gardens no fees are taken to visit these sites.
While tourists visit for the aesthetic appeal of the locations, these offerings can be further augmented with the authentic and traditional Dominican rhythm. The potential economic spin offs are obvious and the employment which could be created for scores of musicians in the villages make such linkages with our heritage sites invaluable. Due to the importance that most visitors place on music entertainment this could increase loyalty when experiences are enhanced in this niche.
Since a survey of cruise ship visitors indicate that an overwhelming majority (83 %) indicate that they would like to experience the fullness of Dominica's culture combined with the country's heritage as part of their brief visitor package, I would therefore recommend that our traditional Creole groups be engaged at these sites. These groups are well positioned to be employed at these sites as these visitors want the authenticity of the Dominican sound as provided by the traditional groups who do not need electricity or amplification in keeping with the natural setting. The island has a total of 13 heritage sites and really, it is a startling underutilization of our musicians who can only enhance the experience of the visitor in keeping with their expectations. This can be facilitated through organized tours by Dominica Taxi Association and tour operators in collaboration with Discover Dominica Authority. Musicians should also be paid for their services as tourism authorities frequently request these services but allow the musician to depend on the goodwill or tips from the tourists which are grossly insufficient. Some tourists are of the misguided view that they have already paid for the same in packaged tours.
Most traditional groups consist of an average of four musicians and would relish the opportunity of at least doing weekly engagements right in the villages where they reside. It is instructive to note that most villages are blessed with several practicing musicians preserving the Creole traditions of Bele, Quadrille, Flirtation, Jing Ping or the more contemporary Cadence and Bouyon music. With high unemployment among the populace, musicians whom I interviewed said they would readily make themselves available if called upon. A mere 5% of visitors' site fees or 40c from every $8 paid can ensure that approximately $4017.15 is collected per week to employ traditional musicians without increasing site fees based on information tabulated from the Dominica National Parks 2008 visitors records.
Adding value through live music to enhance visitor experience seem to make a lot of sense and is not just for the Fort Young , Garraway, Kubuli Bars, Ruins and others who are capitalising due to their direct proximity to the cruise ship berth. So although this study was conducted in 2011 I would like to think that it still has some relevance which I trust that stakeholders and policy makers can explore.