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11 Visiting

11.1 Tourism in Dominica

Promoted tourism in the Caribbean region began in the end of the 19th century. The tourists of the time were attracted by the region's invigorating climate and balmy air, even though just some hundred years before the Caribbean was seen as one of the most unhealthy districts of the world. The first islands to enter into tourism business were Barbados, Jamaica, Cuba, and the Bahamas. In the early 20th century the popular image of Caribbean as a region of sun, sea and beaches developed, and by the 1960s when long-haul flights became affordable to Western middle-class the era of mass tourism began. As Polly Pattullo (1996: 8-9) says: 'When tourism overtook sugar as the major foreign-exchange earner it pitched the Caribbean into a new historical phase.'

In Dominica the only form of mass tourism are the cruise ships that call regularly at the ports of Roseau and Cabrits. According to Pattullo (1996: 123), over 120,000 cruise ship tourists visited Dominica in 1994 while the number of stayover tourists was some 65,000 (Wiley 1998: 169). In a field study carried out by Debra A. Sharkey and Janet Henshall Momsen in 1992, 33 hotels and guesthouses with 508 rooms were identified. The number of accommodation is rising since in 1993 the number of rooms had risen to 757 rooms. However, according to Sharkey and Momsen (1995: 44), even in the high season only one third of the rooms are occupied.

The international hotel chains and all-inclusive tourist resorts like Jamaican-owned Sandals have not landed on Dominica. The lack of beaches and international airport discourages that kind of tourism. Unlike in many other Caribbean countries, almost all of the hotels and guest houses of Dominica are both owned and managed by local people (Pattullo 1996: 123).

Although various plans for promoting Dominican tourism have existed at least since the 1970s (see e.g. Dominica 1971), according to Pattullo (1996: 123) only in the early 1990s when the government was faced with the possible collapse of the banana industry, Dominica started to invest strenously in tourism. Dominica is promoted as a nature tourism destination. Endemic parrots, pristine rain forests, the second-largest boiling lake in the world, and coral reefs are marketed for hikers, divers and other nature lovers. Sharkey and Momsen (1995: 42) mention also the role of indigenious tourism proposed to be developed in Carib Territory, the last community of Amerindians in the insular Caribbean.

James Wiley (1998: 170) notes that due to its different touristic profile, Dominica is not so dependent on the North American market as are most of the other islands. In 1994, North America provided just some 20 percent of the visitors, and Europe some 25 percent. More than half of the tourists come from other Caribbean islands, and according to a preliminary study of year 2000 the proportion is still approximately the same (Bellot 2001). The development of Dominican tourism is now at crossroads. The question is, how and to what extent the cruise ship tourism can be developed in order to be compatible with nature tourism (Pattullo 1996: 126). Another, related question is whether or not the international airport should be constructed.

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