An Antigua-based Vincentian tourism executive says there are many untapped opportunities in the tourism industry in St. Vincent and the Grenadines for the nation’s youth.
“Today’s traveling public has a demographic of persons looking for more than just the beach and the rum punch,” says Rachel Browne, manager and co-owner of Hermitage Bay, a five-star resort in Antigua.
“There is a whole community of travellers who are yearning for experiences, for cultural awareness and participation, and as a destination, SVG with its unspoilt natural beauty, colourful and friendly people and rich culture is truly sitting on a diamond mine,” she told the youth entrepreneurship forum held by the opposition New Democratic Party in Kingstown on Thursday.
Browne urged young persons to look for unique opportunities within their communities and search for their passion.
“Make it work for you and go brave and with prudent judgement,” she said.
Drawing on her experience, Browne said she and her family vacation in South Africa, where a group of young men from that country encouraged them to tour a cemetery to visit the graves of anti- Apartheid icons.
“Did I go to South Africa for that reason? No! But through these energetic, bright young people and their innovative colourful and strategic marketing, we took the tour and it was the highlight of our trip,” she said.
“So, you have to think outside the box,” she said.
Proposing some ideas, Browne said:
“What about a Vincy home-cooked meal with storytelling? Village walks visiting old churches, houses and schools? Do you know who built the first ‘wall house’ in your village? And is it still in the same location? Has it been changed? Is there a story to tell about the people who lived in it then?
“A day spent in the mountains tending to arrowroot crops — we are one of only 2 producers in the world; carnival experiences — mas’ camp limes — to show our creative men and women at work; river cooks. The list is endless,” Browne said.
She said that the ideas she listed are easy to start up and do not require a lot of capital investment.
“Use the resources available to you because, believe you me, if we don’t get on it, the foreign interests who are coming, will. So be prepared to partner with them: they bring the tourist; you provide the experiences.”
Browne said that another huge opportunity is that of the Airbnb phenomenon.
“Some of you might have rooms in homes — a home or even a nice piece of land in the mountain next to the river. Get some nice tents; offer camping trips.”
She said there are also opportunities in the area of intellectual property rights and licensing arrangements and inquired about awareness of the economic potential in ownership trademarks or logos or brand names.
Think of it this way: come up with a slogan, name or design to go along with any services you offer or provide to the industry; register those with CIPO (Commercial and Intellectual Property Office); once that slogan, design, band name catches on and becomes identified with a particular product or service of quality that is memorable, it is indeed conceivable that any of the foreign players in the industry who come to set up shop here may well want to use those brands/slogans/designs/names that you have created.
“Once registered to you (the owner of the Intellectual Property), they cannot, without your expressed consent use what you have created. Herein lies the opportunity to earn from licensing fees…they want to use your IP, they must pay as you have the full legal rights to the intellectual property. In other words, it is your brand. Do NOT underestimate the earning potential in this and the tourism/hospitality industry offers much potential for this aspect of business.
All these are great avenues for entrepreneurship. Opportunities for grassroots tourism. Opportunities which you can use to better your economic status and that of your families and positively influence the industry,” Browne said.
Drawing on another experience, this time in St. Vincent, Browne said that a few weeks ago, she and her family visited Dark View Falls in North Leeward for a day out.
“I was in heaven; the beauty of this island. There were buses of tourists who arrived as well. I could not help but note there wasn’t anyone there selling crafts or providing a guided narrative of this beautiful area — or even making some good island food right there and then… No group there dancing and showcasing our culture,” she said.
“Remember, this product is ours. We have been blessed with something most islands do not have. Two distinct products — the white balmy beaches of the Grenadines and the eco-tourism potential of the mainland. We who are born here should make sure that we are well positioned to reap the rewards of this gift.
“Be bold, be courageous,” Browne said.