Caribbean Stories From Inside The Reef

The Life Cycle of Tourism

View from the beach in front of Club Med, the first major resort on Provo.

The trajectory of tourism development has been well established over the last four decades. In 1980 Professor Richard Butler at the University of Western Ontario published a study of the life cycle of tourist destinations. Referred to as the Tourism Area Life Cycle (TALC), the model identifies six or seven predictable stages that a resort destination goes through regardless of location. It is worth examining the elements of TALC, which has held up remarkably well over the decades, to see where the Turks & Caicos Islands currently fits into the cycle and what to anticipate.

The first stage is “Exploration.” That is when a place might see a only few adventurous travelers pass through. They are not really tourists, but explorers looking for unspoiled, untouched paradises and leave almost no footprint.

The second stage is “Involvement.” This transpires when a destination starts to get more visitors and accommodates them with small inns and cafes and maybe the option for a few local activities. 

The third stage is “Development.” More tourist accommodations and facilities are built as more tourists arrive and the place becomes recognized as a tourist destination.

The fourth stage is “Consolidation.” Large multinational companies move in to build bigger hotels to support growing numbers of tourists. This is also the phase when tensions begin to develop between the host population and the tourists. 

The fifth stage is “Stagnation.” Tourist numbers peak and environmental damage sets in. The resort destination becomes less fashionable and some of the hotels become old and run down. 

The sixth stage is “Decline.” That takes place when the tourist destination loses its luster. Fewer tourists arrive as they seek new places that are more exciting and still “unspoiled.” 

The seventh stage, if it happens, is “Rejuvenation.” Investment in new facilities and expansion of attractions potentially revives interest in the destination and reverses the decline.

Provo appears to be in the “Consolidation” stage near the top of the cycle, especially with several new high-end tourist developments scheduled to open in 2024. That is both a testament to the attraction of Provo as a vibrant destination but also a warning that development may soon reach a peak and lead to the stagnation phase. 

If the cycle holds true, an urgent question arises: How does Provo in particular, prevent succumbing to the fate of other resort destinations whose cycles started much earlier? More to the point, what bold action must TCI take to retain the enchantment before it is too late? 

One of my favorite people in TCI, Captain Tim Hamilton from South Caicos. He truly reflects the spirt of these islands and the antithesis of overdevelopment that threatens to take away the magic.

1 Comment

  1. Sharon

    Sure hope TCI community, businesses, and government work hard to overcome the typical lifecycle of tourism and avoid environmental damage over the coming years.

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