New Film Looks at How Diaspora Travels


By Alexander Britell

Above: Dr Keith Nurse

A new film set to premiere in Toronto Wednesday looks at the concept of “diasporic tourism” or the way the Caribbean diaspora travels back to its home countries.

The film, “Forward Home,” is the brainchild of executive producer Dr Keith Nurse, whose research on diasporic tourism over the last two years yielded some intriguing results.

“The first thing that we were a bit surprised by was how diverse diasporic tourism is,” he said. “I think we were going into the process, thinking of vacation tourism, only to find that a lot of the travel includes other kinds of tourism.”

Many travelers returning to their countries of heritage or origin go back for other reasons, he said — from educational tourism to medical tourism.

“A diaspora tourist is not a monolithic construct,” said Nurse, who is the director of the University of the West Indies’ Sridath Ramphal Centre for International Trade Law, Policy and Services. “It’s a quite diverse market group, and they have a range of needs and interests. So you find different kinds of services, different kinds of entrepreneurs, flowing into that process.”

What truly surprised Nurse and his team were the numbers: in Jamaica, for example, 25 percent or more of tourist arrivals were actually members of the diaspora. In Guyana and Suriname, diaspora travelers are upwards of 60 percent of arrivals.

“Guyana and Suriname are off the charts,” he said. “In effect, without diasporic tourists, they have no tourism industry. They would have no airlines — because they’re such a dominant group of travelers.”

The 30-minute film was funded by Canada’s International Development Research Centre, and research was done in partnership with Ottawa’s Centre for Trade Policy and Law.

With such large numbers, and an increasing percentage of second- and third-generation travelers, new challenges emerge for the Caribbean countries that welcome them back.

“This is a group that is far more sophisticated — they have traveled to many other locations than just back to their diasporic homes, so the tourism product has to become more competitive for this group,” Nurse said. “Otherwise, we may well lose them to other market spaces.”

“Forward Home” premieres at distributor CaribbeanTales’ Toronto Film Showcase Sep. 7 at 8:30 PM.

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