In my article, “Who Gets A Piece Of Paradise” published in the winter issue of Times of the Islands, I ask if TCI should hit pause on tourism development. Implied in the question is another question: Who do we want to be as a destination and ultimately as a society?

With six or seven new resort developments going up on Provo and projections for 1.1 million stay-over tourists by 2032 (more than double the current number of 490,000), the question takes on new urgency. In my view, the island seems to be racing toward mass tourism and losing the special magic that draws in the luxury tourists that sustained TCI.

Sure, the resorts going up are luxury in nature, but the congestion they will bring is anything but luxurious. Indeed, for the past 30 years, Provo has been without peer or competition in the Caribbean when taking into account direct flights from the US and Canada (and now UK), spectacular beaches, gorgeous turquoise water, and, above all, a sense of serenity without crowds. That’s what distinguished us.

If we keep going down the path of unbridled tourism development, we risk losing that uniqueness–some say we already have. When that happens, we become just another tourism commodity that, ironically, puts Provo in direct competition with other Caribbean Region countries that have gone down this path. In other words, we are trading in the specialness that distinguished us from everyone else to carve out a market share that, until now, was irrelevant.

I fully understand the need to generate wealth to benefit the local people and wholeheartedly support that through luxury tourism. However, if that luxury that set us apart disappears, none of us will benefit except for investors/developers who built and sold early enough. Why would anyone seeking a luxury vacation and having the means to afford it come to a place that is congested with resorts, never mind the airport and highways. In short, the benefits of sprawling development will be short-lived and lead to stagnation, as per tourism development trajectories addressed in earlier blogs and the article “Who Gets A Piece of Paradise.”

I just hope the momentum is not too great to slow down and remember who we are and what we stand for.