Above: Statia (CJ Photo)
By Alexander Britell
STATIA — Could this be the next big form of sustainable tourism in the Caribbean?
Eco-tourism pioneer Jem Winston thinks so.
Winston is a proponent of “homestay” tourism, which sees tourists and travelers pay to stay in the homes of Caribbean people, spending money, making lifelong friendships and finding a deeper, different kind of connection to a place.
Winston explained how Caribbean homestay tourism works in an address at the Statia Sustainable Conference, which concluded Friday in Oranjestad, St Eustatius.
Winston operates the award-winning 3 Rivers Eco Lodge in Dominica, which also has a homestay component.
Winston acts as a kind of homestay concierge, helping to book the stays on behalf of owners and connecting people to people.
Guests are connected to homestay operators, living with them, learning about their culture and interacting with their community.
It’s a kind of tourism he and several others at the conference hope catches on in the Caribbean, offering what they see as a series of tangible benefits for local communities.
Winston said he always urged homestay operators to keep their homes exactly the way they lived in them — not to change them for guests.
The underlying message is all about authenticity, with homestays acting as a way to get a direct view of life in the Caribbean.
“Don’t change it, don’t make it different,” he said.
It sounds a bit like the definition of sustainable tourism, in fact.