1. The volcano has had devastating economic and social impacts on Montserrat. To remain viable, it is essential that a sustainable development solution be implemented. This should take advantage of the natural and human resources on the island, and the world market. This document outlines a strategy for Ecotourism as a potential source of income and development on Montserrat.
2. What is Ecotourism? Ecotourism is tourism based on responsible travel to natural areas, which conserves the environment and sustains the well-being of local people.
3. The Ecotourism Market is the fastest growing segment of the tourism industry and increasing at a rate of approximately 30% per year. The average ecotourist is college educated, aged 35-54, and with an average income of US $90,000. Ecotourists prefer to say over 8 days at a destination and will repeat visits. Main reasons for traveling are viewing flora and fauna, birdwatching and viewing volcanoes.
4. Why is Montserrat suited to Ecotourism? Hiking, natural history, unspoiled habitats are the mainstays of ecotourism and Montserrat has these in abundance. The island is pristine and biologically rich. On land there are five distinct habitats for exploration, and four endemic species (found only on Montserrat). The underwater life is vibrant and unusual with over 37 coral species and 87 fish species. The current volcano has international interest and potential for appeal similar to the Arenal volcano in Costa Rica. There is much local knowledge of the flora and fauna and traditional plant uses.
5. The Model for Ecotourism Development in Montserrat: The model is to develop an ecotourism industry based on the natural history of the island. An Ecotourism Center will provide nature-based activities, research and education (at college and general level). This center will be integrated with ongoing volcano studies and viewing to provide a broad based ecotourism product. Ecotourists will stay in local accommodations (villas, hotels etc.) use local transportation and services. Revenue and employment will accrue to the local people through activities at the center, transportation, accommodations, entertainment, and sales to tourists etc. A key advantage is that this project is based on expanding existing infrastructure, and providing additional employment to displaced workers. It will also provide training to local people. A further advantage is that knowledge generated at the center will directly benefit Montserrat in natural resource management. The diversity of activities and subjects at the center (from coral reefs to volcanoes) will generate greater interest and revenues.
6. Market and Revenue Sources: Three market segments are envisioned:
1. Educational (term courses in ecology, geology etc. By year four, we project approximately 20 students for 12-week term and summer courses. (U. S. Universities have approached SEI on the possibility of future courses in Montserrat).
2. Graduate Students: Montserrat has many opportunities for graduate level study.
3. Traditional Ecotourists. These include ecotourists such as Earthwatch groups (extended stay tourists), and smaller ecotourist groups average stay 7-10 days). This segment will provide about half of the projected ecotourism revenue.
7. Set up Costs, Jobs, and Projected Revenue: These are based on a small-scale ecotourism operation. If additional funding is available a larger scale venture is proposed which will more than double set up and revenue costs. The market will grow with time, and it is essential that the initial costs and revenues balance so that the operation remains financially sustainable.
Initial Set up costs are small if existing centers are used. (approximately $200,000) Initially 7 new local jobs will be provided. This does not include the currently displaced workers, (e.g., guides and taxi drivers can resume their employment). New jobs will be created as the center grows and additional tourist revenues generate additional positions.
Estimated revenue generated in Year One $459,800: and by Year Four revenue is estimated at US $911,900. Operating costs are approximately $100-150, 000 per year.
This is based on a low initial tourism market that increases by 5-10% per year.
8. Ecotourist Statistics: Worldwide there were 528 million international tourist arrivals in 1994 (WTO). Their direct tourism expenditures were US $416 billion, making up 6% of the world's GDP. 40-60% of all international tourists are nature tourists.
9. A Potential Model: Costa Rica, a good model for Montserrat, invested in ecotourism in the early 1990. Much tourism centers around Arenal Volcano similar to Montserrats Soufriere Hills. In 1993 tourism receipts in Costa Rica produced earnings of US $577.4 million. 42.2% of US visitors traveled to view the volcano 24.5% to visit flora and fauna, and 67.2% to visit the Ocean.
© 2000 Sustainable Ecosystems