Port of Spain, Trinidad – Any grass roots tourism product has to have key aspects correct if it is to succeed.
That’s the message from Alison Godwin of Trinidad’s Grande Agro Tourism Limited, which was set up in Trinidad to rehabilitate a cocoa estate and create a sustainable business at Sangre Grande.
The target market, explained Ms Godwin, was local visitors including nature conservationists, schools, companies and families; regional visitors on mini-vacations; international visitors including students, conservationists and tourists seeking an authentic experience; and the target market of 18 to 35 years plus 40 to 64 years, depending on which category they fell in.
The five-pointed star of good practices, she explained, had government in the middle and at each point was management; training; value; culture; and authenticity.
“Agrotourism encourages rural development through local and international tourism,” she told delegates.
“Tourists can experience the authentic traditions of the local culture and culinary dishes. Farmers are seeking ways to make agriculture sustainable and tourist are seeking an authentic vacation experience. Agro-tourism adds value to tourist vacations and increases farmer revenue.”
In terms of sustainability, there were pros and cons.
The elements that would benefit the destination were increases in farm income; full time farm labour; an on-farm market; diversification of opportunities; and the possibility of generational succession.
On the flip side, this would also mean higher overhead costs and work hours and the possibility of having to deal with infrequent visitation.
“There is a stigma that agriculture is uneducated,” she said.
“But people in the sector have very well-structured businesses generally. This stigma follows them into tourism.”
A question came from the floor about how government support could assist.
“It is important we go to the grass roots to experience it. We all play a part – businesses, government, advertisers and media – and if we have that experience we are able to make a tangible connection to see what the needs are from those grass roots all the way to the top,” she concluded.