Making a difference - easy, effective, educational, community tourism

Making a difference - easy, effective, educational, community tourism

Dominica
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Rosalie Forest Community Tourism Programme is a partnership between private business and the local community. Guests are offered a variety of activities and accommodations, giving them a true taste of life, culture and heritage in Dominica, through the eyes of a Dominican. Activities range from working on farms, to reggae band practice, bamboo crafts and assisting in the local school.
The programme also includes a village family home stay component; visitors can choose their family from the online profile, and spend a night in their home to experience their real way of life. All activities were chosen by the villagers, and all existed already; no-one needs to do anything new; no money is required to start.
Participation of tourists in the programme has encouraged many to become sponsors of our various community projects, including our school scholarship fund, which now pays for 6 children to attend the local preschool.
Guests win a unique and amazing experience, the hosts win much needed income without having to change their way of life, and the lodge wins by improving its reputation and through the good will created from such a vibrant partnership.

Your idea
This will be the address used to plot your entry on the map.
Street Address

Newfoundland Estate

City

Rosalie

State/Province

St. David

Postal/Zip Code

P.O.Box 12

Country
Year innovation began

2004

Geotourism Challenge Addressed by Entrant

Quality of tourism management and impact on the destination

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Indicate sector in which you principally work

Tourism-related business

Geographic location

Rural, Mountain, Rainforest.

Plot your innovation within the Mosaic of Solutions
Main barrier addressed

Cross-cultural myopia

Main insight addressed

Education through hands-on experience

Innovation
What is the goal of your innovation?

To provide a genuine geotourism experience, whilst minimising negative impacts on our surroundings and enhancing the lives of local people.

How does your approach support or embody geotourism?

Visitors get to experience real life in Dominica, through the eyes of a Dominican family, living their day to day lives. It educates both the guest, and the local people about traditional Dominican culture and history, ensuring that not only are those traditions an asset today, but the youth are educated in how to continue those practices for everyone’s benefit into the future, and are encouraged to do so by seeing the tourist happily paying money to gain such a genuine experience. The local hosts have been encouraged NOT to change anything for the visitor, but rather to help them see exactly how their host would normally spend their time.
The programme has also led to self initiated village beautification projects, as a result of the pride of the villages when the visitors pass through the streets. The project encourages local enterprise, such as crafts and food, which has led to further income for an otherwise impoverished community, and has also led to the installation of renewable energy systems in the village, protecting the environment and reducing energy costs. The programme increases the tourist’s desire to preserve the local environment, through greater understanding of the culture.

Describe your approach in detail. How is it innovative?

One of the main innovative features of the project, is that very little is required to set it up. The hosts have been asked absolutely not to make the event different in any way to the way they normally live, which therefore means that the cost to the host for running the event is pretty much zero. No extra equipment is needed, no training required. However, because the experience is authentic, the guest is happy to pay a reasonable price which means a serious boost for the local economy.
The programme can also be instrumental keeping away crime in an area, because there is a great deal of interaction between the visitors and the community, and it is possible for everyone to get a slice of the tourism cake, as new activities can always be introduced to the programme.
The programme also helps reduce the problem often seen when tourists show little respect for the area in which they are spending their holiday; by giving the newly educated visitor a better appreciation and/or tolerance for any unusual local traditions, and avoids any unnecessary misunderstandings.
Chores that just had to be done, now provide an income for families.

What types of partnerships or professional development would be most beneficial in spreading your innovation?

It would be excellent to see more hotels and tourism facilities forging partnerships with village groups and individuals, and offering the same, or more, activities to their own guests. This could lead to a new job in the village, of a coordinator for the community life activities and homestay programme, who would need to be educated in business and tourism management, which could, perhaps, be done through the participating hotels.
Partnership with local tourist authorities could also see the programme spread further, throughout more villages, more quickly.

Impact
In one sentence describe what kind of impact, change, or reform your approach is intended to achieve.

To spread the tourist dollar, enabling people to improve their quality of life, and provide a comprehensive geotourism experience.

Describe the degree of success of your approach to date. Clearly define how you measure quantitative and qualitative impact in terms of how your approach contributes to the sustainability or enhancement of local culture, environment, heritage, or aesthetics? How does your approach minimize negative impacts? 200 words or less

More visitors choose more community activities every year, and many return visitors, try new ones, indicating that the experience is a good one for the visitor.
We regularly see new local people approaching us wanting to include their ideas/activities in the project, enabling them to begin earning an income for their family.
Some host participants in the project, have received funding from various sources, sometimes assisted by us, to expand or improve their farms/business/home, and the application has been helped through the fact that their business/activity now has an education component to it.
The local school, our most popular choice of day time community activities, has received a solar electric system, other equipment, and various pupils are now sponsored by our clients, as a direct result of their participation in the programme.
Local trails have been improved, and the village has just finished building its own bamboo café, to be used by participants in our community programme.
Another of our community projects installed computers in local schools, giving the whole community more access to the worldwide web.
In our area there are no crimes against tourists.
There is definitely more money circulating locally as a direct result of the project.

How does your program promote traveler enthusiasm, satisfaction, and engagement with the locale?

Guest engagement with the locals is realized through spending quality time in the village, with the locals, in their homes and places of work, as well as here at the lodge, ensuring the visitor leaves having learnt an enormous amount about local culture, heritage and history through the hands on, real life experience offered by the project.
By educating visitors about local culture, their enthusiasm to preserve and promote that culture is enhanced, and we regularly see past guests supporting future projects in the community.
Ensuring the sustainability of that heritage ensures the satisfaction for generations of future visitors.

In what ways are local residents actively involved in your innovation, including participation and community input? How has the community responded to or benefited from your approach?

The project is based entirely on local community participation. Each activity is hosted by a local resident, and all activities were suggested by the local community.
The community sees a steadily growing flow of visitors, spending steadily growing tourist dollars, and they have wisely invested those dollars in improving the village and the offerings to the tourists, which means they also benefited from learning how to make the whole project self sustaining.
Many of our past guests have started their own projects in the village, including adult education classes, further enhancing lives in a sustainable fashion.

Describe how your innovation helps travelers and local residents better understand the value of the area’s cultural and natural heritage, and educates them on local environmental issues. How do you motivate them to act responsibly in their future travel decisions?

Guests gain understanding through the hands on experiences and by seeing how the culture and heritage is paramount in the way people live their lives.
Local residents see someone else in awe of their way of life, which helps them appreciate the value of what they are fortunate enough to have.
We also hold regular renewable energy and organic farming workshops both here and in the community, and promote sustainable living throughout the island. There are educational signs and literature throughout the property, which is run entirely on renewable energy and is chemical free.

Sustainability
Is your initiative financially and organizationally sustainable? If not, what is required to make it so? What is the potential demand for your innovation?

The beauty of the programme is that very little money is needed to run it, as all activities are things that were already happening in the village. For the time being the project relies on the guests of the lodge and the lodge taking bookings, but as the project spreads through more hotels, it is planned for the village to have its own coordinator for the project, paid for by a commission from the tourist activities.
There is no reason for every tourist to the island not to participate in at least one community tourism activity.

How is your initiative currently financed? If available, provide information on your finances and organization that could help others. Please list: Annual budget, annual revenue generated, size of part-time, full-time and volunteer staff.

The initiative is mostly self-financing. Venue and equipment needed was already in place, no staff needed, hosts earn their money directly from the visitor, who pays $40 for day activities. The homestay costs $95 for one, $135 for a couple, including meals, the host gets the most, less tax and transport costs.
Extra funding has been realized through 3 Rivers and Rosalie Forest Eco Lodges.
Various clients, including two American universities, have assisted the schools by offering various forms of funding, and other visitors have assisted physically with the development of the project both during and after their stay.
The UNDP and EU fund community based projects and one of the hosts in our project, received funding. The village also received funding from the European Union for building the bamboo café and improve a local waterfall trail, assisted by us.

What is your plan to expand your approach? Please indicate where/how you would like to grow or enhance your innovation, or have others do so.

I would like to see the programme spread throughout the villages of Dominica, and beyond, with more hotels working with their local communities to develop this kind of community tourism around the island, and the rest of the world.
In this regard, we are in the process of expanding our project to include two more surrounding villages, and many more real life everyday activities.
At the moment home stays are limited to one night, to avoid too much family disruption, but with careful planning this could be extended which would provide a greater, much needed income for the local people.

What are the main barriers you encounter in managing, implementing, or replicating your innovation? What barriers keep your program from having greater impact?

The biggest barrier in the beginning was to stop the hosts changing things in order to suit the tourist. We found at first, the hosts were almost trying too hard, and there was a risk of losing the authenticity of the programme. For example if the family eats a simple meal, then the guest should experience that same simple meal, without adjusting to it to what they are already accustomed to..
Local people found it hard to understand that tourists would be comfortable on say a composting pit toilet; but if that is how they live, then that is what the tourist should do: The whole idea is a real life experience.
That problem was overcome through direct feedback discussions between the host, the guest, and our business.
Due to the remoteness of both our location, and the local community, contacting the host at short notice to arrange a last minute booking can prove troublesome at times, and sometimes we have to go to the village and hunt for the host around the area until we find them. This can mean difficulties with last minute reservations.

The Story
What is the origin of your innovation? Tell your story.

The project began with 3 Rivers in 2002, and now continues with Rosalie Forest Eco Lodge. At the time we were the only hotel in the area and tourists in the community was a relatively new phenomenon. We found that not only were the local community open and friendly towards both us and the new visitors, but they were being extremely generous as well. Locals were inviting our guests into their homes and onto their farms, offering them fresh local produce and drinks to taste and try, and asking for nothing whatsoever in return. This touched me, in such a small community where people really do not have much money at all; but they have food, and warmth, and they were freely sharing it with my guests. In so many countries when tourism begins, you see a change in local people, more beggars and more harassment; not so here in our community, they became more generous.
I felt that this kindness should be rewarded, and also realized that the experience was good for my business, as my guests were extremely happy not only with our lodge, but with the who ambience of the area, which in turn has brought more new and return visitors, so we all win.
I invited the community to a meeting at the community centre, and explained the idea, asking them to think about different activities that we could include in the programme.
Then the interested people came to a follow up meeting at our property, and we finalized details of the programme.
The home stay came about as a later addition to the project, as we were thinking of ways to develop the programme. Aided by a student from an American university who was doing his thesis on community based ecotourism, we launched our homestay programme. The student and a member of staff went round the village meeting people and explaining the idea, which was followed up by a meeting to explain the goals and ideas of the project. We then visited each home stay family and took pictures and some details of how they live. This was then made into a unique web page for each family, describing the house and the things they do, and the guest can choose their family. Each web page was approved by the host family before being published on the internet.
Every few months we meet some of the hosts to get feedback and look at ways of enhancing the project, and we review all client feedback forms to enhance the ideas even further. New hosts are always welcome to attend these meetings.

Please provide a personal bio. Note this may be used in Changemakers' marketing material.

I am Jem Winston, born UK, 1968. I discovered Dominica when traveling in my youth, and vowed to return. After working and saving in England for a few years I moved to Dominica in 2002, and established 3 Rivers Eco Lodge. The lodge has been regularly lauded in the international press, and has received many international environment awards, including the American Express Caribbean Environment award to years running. Later I established Rosalie Forest Eco Lodge, which is even greener than the original idea; all houses made with 100% renewable materials, and continuing the eco community work begun in 2002.

Please write an overview of your project. This text will appear when people scroll over the icon for your entry on the Google map located on the competition homepage.

Rosalie Forest Community Tourism Programme is a partnership between private business and the local community. Guests are offered a variety of activities and accommodations, giving them a true taste of life, culture and heritage in Dominica, through the eyes of a Dominican. Activities range from working on farms, to reggae band practice, bamboo crafts and assisting in the local school.
The programme also includes a village family home stay component; visitors can choose their family from the online profile, and spend a night in their home to experience their real way of life. All activities were chosen by the villagers, and all existed already; no-one needs to do anything new; no money is required to start.
Participation of tourists in the programme has encouraged many to become sponsors of our various community projects, including our school scholarship fund, which now pays for 6 children to attend the local preschool.
Guests win a unique and amazing experience, the hosts win much needed income without having to change their way of life, and the lodge wins by improving its reputation and through the good will created from such a vibrant partnership.