Taking Tourism Forward: What are the Answers?
The Sun asked Dominica's tourism operators to share ideas about what can be done to expand the sector and generate more business.
Most agreed that investing more funds should in effective marketing is a key factor and many believe that the current approach by Dominica's tourism authorities lacks creativity.
Some suggested that marketing of the island's tourism product should be diversified to include novel aspects like culinary tourism.
There were also suggestions that part of the income from Dominica's economic citizenship programme should be to provide meaningful assistance local hotel operators.
One operator suggested making subsidies and low interest loans available to help operators upgrade their properties and get a competitive edge.
Another key observation was that hotel operators do not help one another by referring guests to other properties offering different services or experiences-- like spas or diving.
"People cannot just have a room and a place to sleep; they have to do things," one operator noted, so hoteliers should network and guide guests to enjoy different experiences at other establishments.
Operators agreed that providing more training in hotel services is key, and they want tourism authorities to visit properties regularly, assess challenges and see how they can assist.
One hotelier, Atherton Martin suggested boosting tourism by organising a Nature Island Games event.
He suggested that tourism authorities should use an integrated approach to marketing, one that strengthens the Nature Island brand.
"We are presenting ourselves to the world as an island where anybody interested in making an investment can come. But we are not identifying the type of investments we would want. . .
"Renewable energy. . . solid waste recycling . . . coastal zone development . . . health and wellness . . . traditional medicine… [these are] activities and investment areas that would fit the notion of Dominica as a nature island," Martin asserted.
He pointed out that the 'Nature Island' image does not mesh with improper waste disposal, adding that the island has failed to access appropriate technology to recycle waste.
According to him, Dominica is not making use of 'green' opportunities; for example, the expansive national stadium roof presents a good opportunity to access solar energy.
Martin said Government can significantly reduce its operational costs and become a model for a 'green government' by adopting a different approach.
These days, many travelers' choose destinations based on environmental consciousness, Martin maintained.
"That's what they vote for in their communities. . .Why would they take a vacation in communities that do not adhere to those practices?" he asked.
Martin believes that failure to see the connection between 'green' investments and the island's tourism product puts Dominica at a disadvantage.
He cautioned that the future of tourism will be dim unless policy-makers and industry authorities realise that what they are doing is not working and adopt fresh approaches.
Martin also expressed concern that Dominica remains focused on cruise tourism at a time when the island's cruise traffic has declined significantly.
He added that tourism authorities need to find an innovative response to the emergence of Cuba as a major competitor in stay-over and cruise tourism.
Furthermore, Martin noted that Jamaica, the Dominica Republic and Cuba will market their destinations as one product.
"How are you going to compete with that?" he asked.