St. Kitts Study Shows Local Desire for Community-Centric Tourism

The St. Kitts Ministry of Tourism has released the results of its “2021 Resident Perception of Tourism Survey”. The study, completed by Sustainable Travel International and Holistic Education Research & Conservation, aimed to understand resident priorities and sentiments towards tourism in order to inform policy and strategy moving forward.

Building on a 2017 resident survey, it revealed that, while positive perceptions of tourism have declined over the past four years–exacerbated over the past two years by the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic–residents still believe tourism is important and an industry they want to grow and participate in.

St. Kitts and Nevis is heavily dependent on tourism as a key economic driver. Before the pandemic struck, the industry contributed over half of the country’s GDP. As such, tourism has the potential to substantially benefit the island’s residents. Without proper planning and input from locals, however, the industry can also create challenges, such as escalating costs of living, environmental degradation and a loss of cultural authenticity. The St. Kitts Ministry of Tourism is committed to working together with its residents to address these gaps and encourage community-centric tourism.

The survey findings underscore the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on St. Kitts’ communities, revealing a desire for increased focus on activities that improve the lives of locals rather than merely catering to tourist needs. This includes supporting local businesses (87 percent), ensuring resident health (90 percent), protecting natural resources (87 percent), and preserving St. Kitts’ cultural heritage (91 percent).

The survey identified opportunities where more could be done to adequately address residents’ priorities and needs. For instance, 87 percent of residents believe it is important to support local businesses, yet only 26 percent feel this need is being met. Similarly, three-quarters (77 percent) of residents desire community involvement in tourism development decisions, but only one-third (32 percent) feel that their opinion makes a difference.

The survey also showed that residents see tourism as a career opportunity in St. Kitts. Of the residents who do not work in tourism, one-quarter (26 percent) have an interest in such careers. Not only do residents want to work in the industry, but 70 percent are interested in advancing their skills via tourism career training.

“This survey confirms the need for continual engagement of our residents and citizens on matters pertaining to tourism. We must explore all avenues for capturing their voices and innovative ideas to ensure a resilient, sustainable and authentic tourism product,” said Carlene Henry-Morton, permanent secretary, St. Kitts Ministry of Tourism. “By adopting an inclusive and collaborative approach we are better equipped to make informed decisions about workforce development and training, to devise mechanisms for supporting local businesses and to craft policies which truly reflect our pro-people, pro-planet, balanced agenda for a bright and prosperous future in tourism. The data gathered will certainly be put to very good use as we chart our course for the next few years.”

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