Finding Authenticity in Caribbean Tourism

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Above: Martinique (CJ Photo)

By the Caribbean Journal staff

How does a Caribbean destination deliver authenticity?

For Dominica native Dr Lennox Honychurch, the answer lies in presenting a complete package to visitors — exposing them to the Caribbean’s cuisine, culture, history and landscapes — and doing so in an honest, straightforward manner.

“Here in the Caribbean we increasingly market ourselves as the genuine article. We have sites related to the real pirates of the Caribbean, real rainforests, real coral reefs and real people taking part in traditional cultures of the islands that have evolved over centuries with the coming together of a variety of ethnic groups,” he said. “All of this and the story which goes with it, comes together to form what we market as ‘the Caribbean experience.'”

It’s putting together the pastiche of landscapes, botanic gardens, colonial settlements, old forts and other history that make for an authentic experience, he said — including both the good and the bad of Caribbean history.

“The harsh aspects of the Caribbean experience must be honestly and frankly told — Plantation houses, like the forts, are important parts of our product and it is best to be completely open about how things were and how this influences the present,” he said.

“There have been some very successful adaptations of plantation houses as productive visitor sites,” he said. “These combine rum production, with wedding and event destinations as well as general visitor receptions.”

Honychurch, who was speaking to introduce a panel on authenticity at the State of the Industry Conference in Martinique, mentioned Habitation Clement in Martinique and St Nicholas Abbey in Barbados as examples.

And there are new opportunities for visitor experiences in every area — from highlighting the history of the pre-Columbian period in the Caribbean to capitalizing on the Pirates of the Caribbean film series by incorporating the region’s involvement with the real pirates of the Caribbean.

“Our average visitor is far better informed than they were when the tourism industry began to blossom in the 1960s,” he said. “A limbo dancer walking on crushed glass and fire eating with a steel band tinkling away in the background was all the entertainment that was necessary for a fun filled evening. But now we must come far better than that.”

 

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