Technical Assistance in Community-Based Tourism to St. Andrew’s Development Organisation, Grenada

Community group on site visit to Mt. Carmel Waterfall
Community group on site visit to Mt. Carmel Waterfall

Community group on site visit to Mt. Carmel Waterfall

Measuring 35 square miles, St. Andrews is by any measure the largest parish on the island of Grenada. Centrally positioned, St. Andrews is also the only parish that borders all others and is home to a total of about 25,000 residents. Grenville, the main centre of the parish, is the island’s second largest town, second only to the capital of St. George’s. Also known as La Baye, Grenville has a deeply rooted French heritage, reflected in some of its district names such as Marquis, the first parish capital under French rule in the mid-1790’s, which has transitioned today to a small and quiet community just south of Grenville, predominantly known for its craft and fishing heritage.

St. Andrew’s central location makes it a lush and mountainous community, with a rich history of economic activity within the agriculture and fishing sectors. St. Andrew has traditionally been a vital producer of cocoa and is home to, arguably the world’s largest producer of nutmeg, the Noel family. Mr. Denis Noel, former Grenadian Ambassador to the USA, still resides on the family property in St. Andrew from which he manages the well-known Nut-Med pain relief spray and cream company. The Grenada Cocoa Association also manages a storage facility in Grand Bras next to the Noel family residence. A number of hiking trails within the Grand Etang National Park are within easy reach of St Andrews and there is an expansive river that runs from the Park into the parish.

In light of the rich natural, cultural and historical resources in St. Andrew, there exists tremendous potential for the development of community-based agro-tourism and nature-based tourism products and services that could, in time, deliver additional diversity to the island’s tourism product mix. Notwithstanding this potential, however, there is limited organised tourism activity within the St. Andrew community compared to other parishes within the country.

It is to this end that the OECS agreed to provide technical assistance to the St. Andrew’s Development Organisation (SADO) to develop community-based tourism. The SADO was established in 1984 and officially registered in 1985 with a stated mission of “Towards Greater Participation for Community Development.” The main focus of activities for the Organisation is the annual Rainbow City Festival that coincides with the Emancipation Day celebrations on August 1st. This popular, long-standing festival is an important event on the annual calendar, not just for the parish of St. Andrew but all of Grenada. The Festival, named for the rainbows that are often seen in the sky over the town, runs from August 1-6 annually with celebrations that include: arts and craft, village tours, food, music, and dancing. With local arts and craft on display, and tours being offered of scenic sites in the parish, the Rainbow City Festival is a fantastic location to lime (party) the day away. More specifically, activities include: drumming, fish and cassava dishes, a farmer’s market, and an exhibition and cultural display, culminating on Emancipation Day with the Emancipation March and Music Festival.

Participants attending the OECS workshop, however, acknowledged that the Festival and the Organisation (SADO) have lost momentum in recent years and would therefore benefit from a new injection of focus and direction to drive a reinvigoration of the entity. This training in community-based tourism organised by the OECS Commission was therefore deemed very useful in revitalising and providing much needed direction to SADO, its membership and stakeholders, through identifying new livelihood opportunities that community-based tourism offers. In addition, it is hoped that traditional arts, craft, performances and music might be further sustained and enhanced through community-based tourism products.

Sixteen persons participated in the five-day workshop designed to increase participant understanding, confidence and capacity, to successfully and sustainably enter the tourism industry with a community-based tourism product.

The structure and style of engagement of the training was mainly informal and deliberately designed to challenge the group, as much as possible, to come up with ideas that demonstrate common sense and lateral thinking that is necessary to demystify the issues and misconceptions associated with the development of a tourism business. This strategy was deliberately executed to ensure sustainable human capital development that reduces reliance upon external consultants and government support as much as possible. A traditional teacher/student, classroom training session was purposefully avoided as this tends to reinforce dependency and a sense of knowledge/expertise hierarchy. Workshop participants possessed limited direct experience working within the tourism industry. Notwithstanding, several persons indicated the desire to gain employment or start a tourism business in the future.

The purpose of this intervention was to deliver training to participants to fill skill and knowledge gaps that presently hinder the viability of their existing or potential commercial tourism ventures. The aim was therefore to develop and enhance the human capital to improve technical self-sufficiency and thereby enhance resilience of the participants’ potential tourism initiatives to deliver economic and livelihood benefits.

Workshop Deliverables
The workshop comprised the following key activities:
1. Site Visits for Review and Critique of Viability of Potential Tourism Assets
2. Tourism Product Self-Assessment
3. Marketing Training
4. Tour Guiding and Interpretation Training
5. Development of a Community-Based Tourism Action Plan

Some of the key sites visited and assessed during this intervention were:

Royal Mt. Carmel Falls
The Royal Mt. Carmel Falls, whilst still largely undiscovered and not yet visited by most Grenadians, is actually the highest waterfall on island at 70ft and offers tremendous potential as a community-based tourism product in St. Andrew. Despite some issues identified during the assessment which require attention such as: the property being privately owned, littering in the vicinity of the site, muddy parts of the pathway which may be a bit precarious for visitors, there are many factors that bode well for the development of the Royal Mt. Carmel Falls as a premier tourist hot spot that include:
• The site is relatively easily accessible (12 to 15 minute walk),
• The area is quite vast with a reasonable carrying capacity and adequate space in the area below the falls to sit and enjoy the view and ambiance,
• The falls can be bathed under relatively easily by crossing the stream and some rocks,
• A community shop is located right at the entrance to the Falls which can provide refreshments to visitors; the shop is right on the main road, adjacent to a main intersection and bus stop.

Rome Museum
Rome Museum is another attraction with significant community-based tourism potential in St Andrew. An elderly community resident, called Mr. Rome, manages the facility. Mr. Rome has spent years collecting and cataloging unique items used in the past, and exudes a very passionate and charismatic personality when showcasing his extensive collection of historical artifacts. The exhibits are labelled and authentically presented in the courtyard of his property and within a small facility. He has expressed keen interest in increasing visitation by tourists (which is currently almost nonexistent) and is therefore in the process of developing a toilet area to improve his product. He therefore requires assistance to commercialise his venture and will benefit from being included within any community based tour.

Exhibits are wide-ranging and include: phones (mobile and landlines); toilet, kitchen, irons, shoes, money, luggage, dishes, soft drinks, clocks, pots, pans, lamps, ovens, musical instruments etc. As it stands, the rustic authentic nature of the experience is a primary attraction. However, the items for specific interpretation can be finessed and over time a highly entertaining and educational experience can be developed, which would add a socio-cultural component to the community tour that would balance with the ecotourism focus of the Royal Mt. Carmel falls.

Paradise Bridge
Paradise Bridge is claimed to be the oldest bridge of its kind in the OECS region. This 200-year-old bridge was constructed in 1813. Whereas the bridge is listed on the Grenada Yellow Pages’ listing of attractions in St. Andrew, tourists appear to have little interest in just visiting the bridge as there is not much to see. In order to gain a true sense of appreciation for the bridge, the product would need to be enhanced to incorporate the river which the bridge serves and the inclusion of interpretation to furnish a rich and entertaining account of the history of the bridge.
The participants undertook a practical assessment of the viability of the products, the outcome of which was the ranking of tourism assets for suitability to commercialise as follows:
1. Rome Museum 79%
2. Mt. Carmel Waterfall 72%
3. Paradise Bridge 70%

Participants received certificates following the training and rated the intervention highly. They deemed it very useful for the future development of their community. Doris, who is one of the most experienced crafters in the St. Andrew community, also taught others attending the workshop how to produce craft. Doris reported that the training was very informative and broadened the way she viewed her craft business. “It really taught me to not just see craft as something I like to do, but see it as a business venture,” Doris said.