Lisa Sorenson (left) and Steve Shunk on Zeelandia beach photographing red-billed tropicbirds. (Hannah Madden photo)
ST. EUSTATIUS–Steve Shunk of Nature Travel Network and Lisa Sorenson of BirdsCaribbean spent three days exploring St. Eustatius to promote nature-based tourism on the island.
The November-15-to-18 familiarization trip was organized and facilitated by Terrestrial Areas Manager of St. Eustatius National Parks Stenapa Hannah Madden, and funded by St. Eustatius Tourism Development Foundation (STDF).
Nature-based and birding tourism form a huge market that remains untapped in the smaller Caribbean islands, yet these islands boast rich biodiversity that has the potential to attract many overseas visitors.
During their trip Shunk and Sorenson hiked the Quill National Park where they saw bridled quail-doves, scaly-breasted thrashers, lizards, racer snakes and many other species.
They also visited Miriam C. Schmidt Botanical Garden and met with stakeholders such as Caribbean Netherlands Science Institute (CNSI), Congo preserve, STDF and Scubaqua.
A walk along Zeelandia Beach brought them close to the iconic red-billed tropicbird, the only seabird species known to nest on Statia.
From this brief exploration of the island both gained an “overwhelmingly positive impression” about the possibilities for expanding nature-based tourism on Statia. “When I met Hannah Madden at a BirdsCaribbean meeting in Jamaica this summer, I had no idea that Statia even existed,” Shunk explained.
“After a few days on the island, I am confident that Statia has tremendous potential to attract nature-loving travellers.”
In addition, science-based tourism is another potential avenue that can be pursued thanks to the presentence of Stenapa and CNSI. This year to date, CNSI has hosted over 3,000 nights, all of which contribute to the local and regional economy through the purchase of flights, meals and other items.
Sorenson and Madden brainstormed the possibility of hosting bird-related trainings and workshops on Statia, which would further boost the island’s economy and profile.
Shunk is currently continuing his tour on St. Maarten and Saba, where he is being hosted by naturalist Mark Yokoyama, representatives from Seagrape Tours and St. Maarten Nature Foundation, and representatives from Saba Tourism Foundation and Saba Conservation Foundation.
Source: The Daily Herald Nature-based tourism opportunities explored