They have just completed a 5-day training exercise aimed at strengthening the tourism product in that area.
Fond Gens Libre is a small, remote, rural community situated in the southwest region of Saint Lucia, near the town of Soufriere. Literally translated from the local Kweyol language as ‘valley of the free people’, Fond Gens Libre is an old settlement dating back to the 1700s and is known to be home to the descendants of the Brigands (runaway slaves). Fond Gens Libre is located within the Pitons Management Area (PMA) which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004.
Fond Gens Libre is strategically located at the base of Gros Piton, one of St. Lucia’s iconic landmarks. Visitors must walk through the community to access the main starting point for the hike of The Pitons. The emergence of tourism in Fond Gens Libre has resulted in extensive exposure of the community, making it better known, not only at the national level, but also regionally and internationally.
Visitation over the past two decades has also stimulated an increased sense of pride and identity among community residents. Once ashamed to be from the ‘valley of the free people,’ residents are now very proud to be ‘custodians’ of The Pitons. The development of tourism has also helped minimize the trend of rural-urban drift.
Notwithstanding this enhancement in the standard of living of the community, there is still a need for increased empowerment, by fostering the involvement of a greater number of residents in Tourism. Currently, tourists only walk through the community as a gateway to the Gros Piton Trail.
Recognising the potential to expand tourism services, the OECS Commission delivered training, advisory support and technical assistance to the Fond Gens Libre Development Committee, with a view to developing the human resource capacity of its members and enhancing their skills to develop viable and appealing community-based tourism products that would entice visitors to spend more time and money in the community.
The discussions centred on some key products including: Au Poye Park – a beautiful natural park situated about 5-minutes-walk up Gros Piton, offering visitors the opportunity to relax and enjoy refreshments in a lushly vegetated setting. The training furnished tips, including ideas for product development and detailed strategies for getting more persons to stop, including guests from the nearby Sugar Beach Resort. Homestays – offering visitors the opportunity to overnight before and after the Gros Piton hike.
In this regard, the training focused on what would be involved in creating a quality AirBnB property. Piton Sweets – technical advice to producers of local cupcakes and other confectioneries, on ways to increase sales through diversified marketing channels. Zion lion farm – a budding attraction at Anse L’ivrogne beach, adjacent to Fond Gens Libre. A few months ago, an alternative access point to hike the Pitons was established at Anse L’ivrogne beach. Participants gained insight on ways to enhance and develop the beach area as an attraction.
The Workshop was held over five days during the period February 11 to March 9, and was facilitated by responsible tourism Consultant, James Crockett. This intervention is part of the OECS Community-Based Tourism Programme and is funded under the 10th EDF Economic Integration and Trade of the OECS Region Project.