Basseterre, St. Kitts, November 08, 2016 (SKNIS): The beautification of communities is vital to community tourism, says Community Tourism Officer, Shaline Welcome, adding that venturing into this sector will establish new relationships between tourists and communities.

Ms. Welcome said that persons tend to think that tourism only takes place in urban areas but in fact most of the historical and cultural areas are within rural communities.

“So, if we can get the communities to beautify their surroundings more, promote the area more in terms of cultural and historical activities and more storytelling, that is what a lot of guests are looking for,” said the community tourism officer. “We promote a lot more local dishes that are being served. We get people who will be able to build a small business surrounding these activities. So, community tourism basically is a linkage. It’s not only about sun, sand and sea because we have a lot of tourists whose demands now include historical areas including hiking and things like that.”

She said that persons are now looking for more than sun, sand and sea. They are looking for cultural experiences.

The community group “McKnight on the Rise” has already stepped on board with Community Tourism with a beatification project that saw the transformation of a vacant lot, which was filled with refuse, into a community garden. Ms. Welcome said that there were several businesses that helped with the project. The area is now open for the community to use.

The community tourism officer said that there is also the “Rails to Trails” project that should be coming on stream very shortly. The Rails to Trails project is utilizing the abandoned rails from the area of Palmento Point to Challengers.

“So we are going to be transforming that rail into a hiking and biking area not doing anything to the rails but preserving them,” she said. “Within that rail, we are hoping to get one or two persons from that community that would be able to develop a business in between. There is an initiative to use some old engine carts along the railway tracks beautifying it whether it is for persons to plant flowers between it or even do designs on the railway carts. One suggestion was even a gift shop with the railway cart.”

Ms. Welcome said that various community groups are enthused about the project and they are willing to work along with the Ministry of Tourism.

“Those groups will also take responsibility for ensuring that the track is clean and maintained as well as the hike would lead the tourists into the communities and would allow them to explore what the communities have to offer,” she said. “So it’s not everyone who has to take his business up to the rails but at least that would give the tourists, visitors an opportunity to explore the neighboring communities.”

Ms. Welcome said that other projects, which will include Agro-Tourism, will be on-stream soon.