Multi-destination trips of which St. Eustatius is part of: a network perspective
St. Eustatius, also known as Statia, is situated in the North-Eastern Caribbean. The islands located nearest to St. Eustatius are Saba, St. Maarten and St. Kitts. Approximately 3,800 local residents live on the island and represent more than twenty nationalities.
Tourism is one of the main economic pillars for St. Eustatius. St. Eustatius is aware of the need to develop tourism for economic purposes, but tourism is premature and undeveloped. Multi-destination trips are considered one of the main opportunities to stimulate tourism on the island. Multi-destination trips, also known as ‘island hopping trips’, are a series of short journeys between islands. The objective of this research is to examine the opportunities and constraints for multi-destination trips of which St. Eustatius is part of, resulting from existing tourism networks and flows between Caribbean islands. In order to examine these opportunities and constraints, next sub-research questions were answered:
- What are the current travel patterns and preferences of tourists and local residents of St. Eustatius, Saba and St. Maarten?
- What are existing tourism networks and flows between Caribbean islands?
- Which tourism networks and flows between St. Eustatius and other Caribbean islands can stimulate multi-destination trips?
The research took place on the islands St. Eustatius, St. Maarten and Saba during a nine-week period from the 13th of September till the 13th of November 2015. A quantitative research was carried out to gain insight into the travel behaviour and preferences of tourists and local residents per island, St. Eustatius, Saba and St. Maarten. A qualitative research was conducted to identify the presence and the extent of tourism networks. Also qualitative research was conducted to detect the constraints and opportunities for tourism networks that can stimulate multi-destination trips including St. Eustatius. Theoretically, I framed my research using the following concepts: ‘multi-destination trips’, ‘tourism destination’, ‘network theory’ and ‘mobilities theory’. Based on my research I discerned five tourism networks: a multi-destination network, a dive tourism network, a business tourism network, a cruise network and a local residents network. To improve tourism on St. Eustatius by multi-destination trips, one of the main opportunities is organising day trips to St. Eustatius from St. Kitts and St. Maarten. Diving and the (American) history are St. Eustatius’ unique selling points that can trigger tourists (e.g. American and timeshare tourists) from St. Kitts and St. Maarten for a day trip to St. Eustatius. Moreover, a multi-destination trip including Saba and St. Eustatius in the theme of diving is an opportunity that can stimulate multi-destination trips including St. Eustatius. Finally, different tour operators and a cruise company already offer St. Eustatius as part of a multi-destination trip. If they offer these trips more frequently, it can stimulate tourist arrivals to St. Eustatius. In order to realise these opportunities, better transport connections are required.
Furthermore, this research found that flows in current tourism networks are not ordered in such a way that multi-destination trips including St. Eustatius are stimulated effectively. Several constraints prevent tourism stakeholders from improving or creating networks that aim to stimulate multi-destination trips. The main constraints are: (a lack of) money, negative images, the ‘passive’ tourism policy of St. Eustatius government, strict airline regulations, time-consuming immigration and clearance procedures and the current tourism product of St. Eustatius.