By An Observer
VISITOR or tourist attractions form the basis of the tourism product of all destinations and are essential to their success. They are an essential part of the tourism offering and are one of the major reasons why tourists visit a destination.
In many instances, the attractions offered by a destination are a major determining factor for tourists when planning a vacation. In fact, attractions are the main motivation for tourist trips, and are arguably the most important component of the tourism product.
Attractions create a need for other tourism services, and the tourist industry cannot be sustained without a foundation of attractions that act as a draw for visitors from key tourism markets. A country without potential or existing tourism attractions cannot be developed as a sustainable tourism destination.
A visitor attraction is an object, person, place, or concept that draws people either physically or remotely through electronic means to enjoy an experience. The experience can be recreational, spiritual, or otherwise. Attractions are typically broken down into four major categories: Natural attractions, Heritage attractions, Purpose-built attractions and Events
Natural Attractions – are attractions that have been created by nature. They include geographical features such as caves, waterfalls, seashores and any other interesting scenic views that were not created by mankind. Examples of natural attractions in Saint Lucia are: The Diamond Botanical Gardens and Waterfall, the Pitons and the Rain Forest.
Heritage Attractions – These are attractions that have been in existence for many years and are now historical. By visiting these attractions people can gain an appreciation of the past. Examples in Saint Lucia are Fort Rodney in the Pigeon Island National Park, The Inniskilling Fusiliers Monument at Morne Fortune and the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and Derek Walcott Square in Castries city centre.
Purpose-built Attractions – are attractions that have been built with the sole intention of attracting tourists to an area. Examples of purpose built attractions are Disney World and Rain Forest Sky Rides in St. Lucia.
Events – are also considered to be attractions and can draw lots of tourists to an area. They can be small events like a fireworks display or huge events like the Olympics. Popular events in Saint Lucia are JounenKweyol, Carnival and the Saint Lucia Jazz Festival.
Attractions are an important contributor to a country’s economic and social development because they:
• Provide government revenue generated by taxes on incomes from tourism employment and tourism businesses, and by direct levies on tourists such as departure taxes;
• Create employment;
• Stimulate infrastructure investment;
• Contribute to the local economy; and
• Provide foreign exchange earnings.
Visitor attractions are undeniably an important and integral part of Saint Lucia’s tourism product and the availability of an increased number and variety of tourist attractions will contribute significantly to the sustainability and success of the island’s tourist industry and its overall development.
It is vital therefore that more attention is placed on the creation of more attractions and on the attraction of investment in a variety of new attractions and features that will attract more tourists to the country and encourage those that do visit to spend more money while they are in St. Lucia.
Attractions do not have to be large scale. They can be small specialty restaurants, restaurants serving authentic traditional food, rustic bars with unique character, nature trails or eco lodges. Alternatively, they can include craft villages, artist studios and textile and fabric design workshops that demonstrate the process of artistic creation.
More and more, visitors are environmentally conscious and want to experience nature and outdoor attractions and there is increasing demand for estate tours, farm visits, animal encounters, horseback riding, donkey forest rides, swimming with dolphins, whale watching and visits to bird sanctuaries. Many of these attractions offer opportunities for St. Lucians to invest in the tourism industry, to earn income and foreign exchange and to create jobs.
In many respects St. Lucia is lagging behind competing tourism destinations in the region as several Caribbean destinations offer a more diversified range of attractions that include dolphin experience parks, seaquariums, aviaries and bird sanctuaries, eco-lodges and villages and a broad offering of farm, estate and village experience tours.
If St. Lucia is to develop its tourism product and create a sustainable basis for the sector to create employment, generate income for persons from all walks of life and earn foreign exchange, more tourism attractions are needed. In this regard, every encouragement must be given to St. Lucians and overseas investors who wish to invest in new visitor attractions that will help to make St. Lucia an attractive destination and a unique experience for visitors from all over the world.