Benefitting from Tourism through Local Community Involvement
The Case of the Plymouth Street Beat project in Tobago
Participation and Buy-in
A key element of Tourism Intelligence International's methodology is the participation, involvement and buy-in of the local community. A perfect example of an initiative that reflected TII's community-focused methodology was the Tobago Street Beat Fringe event held at the Plymouth Village on the island of Tobago. For this project, every effort was made to identify local community stakeholders and interest groups. TII spent a great time on the ground in the village identifying these stakeholders. One-on-one meetings were held with every group from the Village Council and Heritage Foundation to the School, Church, fisher folk and Football club as well as small business owners and individual villagers. TII retained both local/village and international experts and also developed a Local Intelligence network. Every effort was made to ensure the participation and contribution of a wide cross-section of key individuals from within the community - firemen, police officers, fishermen, craftsmen, cooks, entrepreneurs, entertainers, men and women, young and old alike.
Key community players were identified and brought together around the idea of maximising the tourism potential and the benefits to locals. The community was galvanized through weekly meetings between November 2006 and April 2007. There was an average weekly attendance of about 30-35 persons.
In order to have an enticement to come to the meetings, food was advertised and cooked by a volunteer from the community. Donations for the ingredients were taken each week at the meeting which averaged about TT$100.00/week over the 15 week period. The intent of all of this was to engage, excite, encourage and provide a basis to build camaraderie within the community as well as display professional respect by TII. It is believed this objective was achieved.
Through these meetings, a number of community-based tourism development options and opportunities were explored - from moorings and the marine environment to a Fringe of the Tobago Jazz Festival. It was decided from all of the options available that the best way for the Plymouth community to benefit from tourism was to mount the weekly (Friday) fish/culinary cultural festival that would be called the Plymouth Street Beat.
The private sector and their respective associations - the hotel, tourist, taxi driver and tour operator associations were all contacted and one-on-one meetings were held. TII was invited by the Tobago Hotel Association, the main governing body for Tobago, to present the project idea and to determine ways in which private sector cooperation would take place. Relationships with the media, mainly Television and radio and one of the key NGOs, Bucco Reef Trust, were forged and firmly cemented.
Education and Capacity Building
As the meetings progressed and the Plymouth Street Beat project deepened, TII realized that the meetings themselves should also be a tool for education and capacity-building. As such, specially invited guests were invited to provide the villagers with knowledge on how to vend, conserve the environment, the role of the police and security, the role of the media and marketing. Sessions on wine tasting as well as event planning, marketing, development and management and role-playing were used to sensitize the community to the various tourism techniques that are available. These initiatives took place in addition to the actual planning and organizing of the event itself.
The main challenge was to ensure participation and buy-in from all community stakeholders. The ultimate goal of the Plymouth Street Beat event was to create unity within the community, build capacity and transfer knowledge to community leaders, ensure that local vendors, fishermen, artists, craftsmen, restauranteurs and cooks all benefitted from tourism. Too often tourists come to a destination and spend their foreign currency at well-established hotels and restaurants, many of which are owned by foreigners themselves. In most cases, there is little or no trickle down effect and community members become marginalized and disenfranchised with tourism as has been the experience with Tobago. This project aimed at making a turnaround in this regard, starting with one small village called Plymouth.
The results were astounding. Many local residents from within the village and from the wider Tobago community came out in their numbers to all of the events and in particular to the final Plymouth Street Beat event. A cover charge of TTD$40.00 (USD$6.00) was agreed upon. These funds were reinvested towards further community development.
Many local vendors, restauranteurs, local cooks, fishermen, singers and other local artists, craftsmen and entertainers participated in the event. All present were exceedingly please with the results.
With the transfer of knowledge, training and capacity building initiatives other similar events continued after the consultancy period was over. This proves that with the right guidance and support communities can make tourism work so that all might benefit.
A sample video of the Plymouth Street Beat.
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